Natural Resources & Energy Policy - Water Resources

LWVAL Action Priority Level II - Monitoring occurs; action dependent on opportunity and available resources.

Click a bill to see sponsor(s), synopsis, link to the bill, League action and justification for that action, and progress of the bill through the legislative process.

thumbs_up_icon.jpg = LWVAL's support for the legislation.
thumbs_down_icon.jpg = LWVAL's opposition to the legislation.
green-right-arrow.jpg = new bill activity; change from previous week's report such as new progress in the legislature and/or League action. Bill may be one newly added to the report. These updates are in green font.

Contact information for legislators and committees referenced in the bills below:
Representatives   Standing House Committees   Senators   Standing Senate Committees   Find my legislators
LWVAL has taken a position on this bill:

thumbs_up_icon.jpgHB577 - Water Resources Act, coordination of plans relating to water allocation required, restrictions of use under certain conditions, award of conservation credits to certain consumers, Alabama Water Security and Conservation Act, Sec. 9-10B-23 repealed; Secs. 9-10B-2, 9-10B-3, 9-10B-20, 9-10B-22, 9-10B-24 am'd.

Sponsor(s): Representative Todd

Synopsis: Creates the Alabama Water Conservation and Security Act. This bill would amend the Alabama Water Resources Act, which designates the Office of Water Resources as the state agency responsible for coordinating the water resources of this state. It would facilitate the coordination of the plans, laws, regulations, and decisions pertaining to water allocation in the state with those pertaining to water quality and implement measures to preserve the flows and levels in all water sources as necessary to protect the appropriate biological, chemical, and physical integrity of water sources.

This bill would:
  1. authorize the Office of Water Resources to restrict any term or condition in a certificate of use for the duration of a water shortage or water emergency declared by the Water Resources Commission;
  2. require the Water Resources Commission to declare a water shortage under certain conditions;
  3. authorize the Office of Water Resources to provide conservation credits to water users who take certain conservation measures during periods of water shortages or emergencies; and
  4. authorize the commission to terminate a declaration of a water shortage or emergency upon certain findings.

It would also require the state to preserve environmental flows and levels in all 16 water sources; allow the Office of Water Resources, after consultation with the Alabama Water Resources Council, to establish by rule environmental flow or level in any water source, and establish a burden of proof for withdrawals of surface or underground water.

League Action and Justification: Support. Alabama has not had a water management plan and this bill moves the state toward that goal. Governor Bentley instituted a water management planning process which has worked over the past two years and made certain recommendations. This bill includes safeguards which several of the working groups considered very important. It places restrictions on water consumption in periods of drought and requires rules to protect withdrawals of water. Our Natural Resources position (LWV of Alabama supports measures to promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection of natural resources in the public interest) and our Coastal Zone Management position (LWVAL supports increased attention to identifying adverse impacts on the coast by the ecosystems of the entire state and establishment of regulations and enforcement mechanisms to prevent or to mitigate those impacts) both support this bill. Those who advocate for water protection are strongly behind it.

Bill Progress in Legislature:

05/2/17: Read for the first time and referred to the House committee on Agriculture and Forestry (A&F)

LWVAL is monitoring this bill:

SB255 - Water, use from Ala., Tennessee, and Tombigbee Rivers by non-riparian landowners under certain conditions for agricultural purposes, duties and reporting by Water Resources Commission, Sec. 9-10B-22.1 added

Sponsor(s): Senator Orr

Synopsis: This bill would apply to the Alabama River, the Tennessee River, and the Tombigbee River, and would authorize a landowner whose land is not contiguous to a natural body of water to use water for agricultural irrigation under certain circumstances.

Currently only landowners contiguous to a body of water have riparian rights, a holdover from English common law. It would be limited to places where average flows are more than 8,000 cubic feet per second and could not exceed five percent of the average basin flow at the end of the basin. Non-riparian users would have to meter their use and report it annually to the Office of Water Resources. The Office of State Climatology and the Office of Water Resources shall develop objective criteria on when non-riparian use may be restricted during drought to protect stream flow attributes. The Water Resources Commission shall adopt rules to implement this section of the law.

League Action and Justification: Monitor. LWVAL could support the bill if suggested improvements from Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) are adopted. Our Coastal Zone Management Position calls for adequate quality and quantity of water flow. This bill, when strengthened, would support that.

ARA finds that there is currently not a clear enough directive to the state agencies to protect river flows to the delta and bay. LWVAL agrees with ARA -- The bill must protect instream integrity, deal with times of water shortage and address hydrologic drought, a condition in which the daily streamflow discharge of a water body is below the 10th percentile for daily flows.

Amendments would change the restriction from an average of 5 percent withdrawn to no more than five percent of the calculated daily natural flow for that river, which would address the withdrawals that may be more likely in low water conditions.

LWVAL believes that this bill is a positive, though piecemeal, step. It would be preferable to have a comprehensive water management plan, which has been in the works for 5 years and is on Gov. Bentley’s desk.

Bill Progress in Legislature:

Read for the first time and referred to the Senate committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (AC&F)

More issues