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State water management plan given to Legislature|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Vicky Welborn, Shreveport Times, 3.17.12 P1

A comprehensive water management report several years in the making that assesses the state’s ground and surface water was presented Thursday by the Louisiana Ground Water Resources Commission to the appropriate legislative committees.

The document, “Managing Louisiana’s Ground Water Resources, With Supplemental Information on Surface Water Resources: An Interim Report to the Louisiana Legislature,” recognizes the value of the state’s water resources, the need to expand monitoring and to take measures to sustain the resources, the connection between ground and surface water, as well as the importance of conservation education and greater public awareness.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle said in a news release that a significant element of the recommendations contained in the report is planning to increase water-monitoring capabilities in the state, creating greater efficiencies in water management through improvements in the number of areas monitored and the frequency that the data are collected.

The state has already received approval for federal funding in supporting that effort and is seeking approval from the state Legislature for the authority to make use of that funding.

“Essential elements of managing any resource are maximizing the ability to gather data on trends in its supply and use and having a forward-looking vision to make use of good science in applying that data to critical decisions on best practices for conservation and regulation,” Gary Hanson, director of LSU-Shreveport’s Red River Watershed Management Institute, said in a prepared statement. “This report represents a great asset to cooperative efforts in managing water resources, providing a single comprehensive document on data gathered, actions taken and issues that have arisen in the past, as well as laying the groundwork for expanding monitoring and defining that vision for the future.”

Coinciding with the 116-page document is a history of ground water management since 1972, along with several appendices. Angelle said the recommendations in the report will positively benefit not only stressed aquifers, but management of all the state’s aquifers.

“I find the report very informative in regards to historical information, and that is important within this type of report, which serves as a genesis document for future plans and efforts to manage water in the state,” said Ted McKinney, member of the Sparta Ground Water Commission and the Sparta’s delegate to the state Ground Water Resources Commission, in the news release.

In the opening message to the Legislature, the report refers to the complexity in the agencies managing water resources coupled with the complex laws governing water in Louisiana.

In closing, it cites the need for public policy that embraces both ground and surface water while expanding the role and membership of the commission.

The interim report is a culmination of discussions with public and private water users, stakeholders, government agencies and elected officials over the past two years.

Angelle noted that the report can also provide information of use to other state agencies that regulate activities dealing with various aspects of water use — such as the Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Environment Quality.

“Louisiana’s population will significantly increase in the next decade, so it is imperative that we have the food and fiber supply to meet these growing needs. This can only be done by effectively managing our water resources,” LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said in the release.