Guest post by Cindy Lowry is a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series spotlighting the Mobile Bay Basin.
In April 2017, the entire Mobile Bay River system, which includes two thirds of the rivers and streams in Alabama, was named as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. The lack of an Alabama Water Management Plan is leading to poor water management decisions within this important river basin.
What needs to happen right now to improve water management in Alabama?
Alabama’s new Governor, Kay Ivey, holds the key to moving forward on the state agency-led process that has been ongoing for the past five years. She has assured Alabama Rivers Alliance that she is doing her homework to get up to speed on this issue. We need her leadership now to release the Alabama Water Agency Working Group (AWAWG) report, which outlines recommendations for a state water plan. The Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Water Policy and Management in the Alabama legislature has not met since last year. I feel strongly that Governor Ivey should ask them to meet and work to engage stakeholders in reviewing the AWAWG report to determine the next steps toward an adopted Alabama Water Plan.
Meanwhile, one legislator understands that the gaps in our current water management system need attention sooner rather than later. Representative Patricia Todd (D, District 54) introduced a bill during the 2017 session of the Alabama legislature to help move the state toward a better system for managing our water. The bill did not pass during the session, but she has assured us it will be reintroduced in 2018.
How do you think about rivers?
I think of rivers much like our bodies. Our bodies move us from place to place, enable us to think and do our jobs, raise our children, and – when healthy – they keep themselves sustained and running properly. When rivers are healthy, they are constantly working for us – diluting pollution, helping create electricity, providing food and recreation. We often take both for granted. When we take our bodies for granted, they begin to break down and then need proper care to maintain their important functions. Rivers are much the same. When they are not properly cared for and managed, they cannot provide all the water we need to drink, play, and to provide for our economic needs and quality of life.
Caring for our bodies means understanding what our body needs as well as managing what we put into our bodies and how we use our body to keep it healthy. It’s the same with our rivers. We must understand their needs and manage them properly in order to keep them healthy and able to work for us. Alabama state leaders and stakeholders have been talking about this for more than two decades.
How we are we doing so far?
In the last 18 months throughout Alabama, we have experienced some of our deadliest floods (December 2015), our lowest stream flows ever recorded (summer 2016), and record rainfall (summer 2017). The amount of clean water we have available to us is growing increasingly unpredictable. We must invest in a plan to properly care for and manage our rivers if we hope to keep them clean, drinkable, healthy, and available to us into the future for ourselves and for future generations.
Act now to tell Governor Kay Ivey to pass strong protections for the flow of water necessary to sustain and protect the amazing biodiversity of the Mobile Bay Basin and the people who rely on this system.
Author: Cindy Lowry, Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance
Alabama Rivers Alliance is a statewide network of groups working to protect and restore all of Alabama’s water resources through building partnerships, empowering citizens, and advocating for sound water policy.