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Haslam Releases Statewide Water Plan, Seeks Public Feedback

from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018

by Andy Sher

Tennessee has long been one of the few states without a long-range water strategy, but Gov. Bill Haslam wants that to change under a new statewide water availability plan released Tuesday.

"Tennessee is blessed with great resources of water today, but we should never take that for granted," Haslam said in announcing the plan, dubbed TN H2O. "As our state grows, we must maintain our capacity to meet our water needs.

"That takes a plan, and I am grateful for the amount of work that's gone into this issue," the governor added.

The plan is basically a "road map" — a starting step, albeit a large one — and Haslam wants to put public feedback on it.

It looks at areas ranging from economic development and recreation to population growth to agriculture, as well as looking at funding to improve water supply infrastructure.

The plan was put together by local, state and federal officials, including from TVA, as well as teams of volunteer experts from universities, nonprofit groups including the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and for-profit companies like the Tennessee American Water Co., which serves much of Hamilton County and the surrounding area.

While the state is "blessed," as the governor put it, with abundant area from the Tennessee River and other rivers across most of the state, there are problems, especially in areas like the Cumberland Plateau, where a 2016 drought put strains on a number of communities in an area where vacation homes now proliferate.

That was a factor in the decision to formulate a plan with areas south of booming Nashville, as well as some Middle Tennessee counties that are having issues.

"The truth is there've been a couple of spot occasions where we have [problems]. But the reality is that  ... it's a question of when, not if," said Haslam who leaves office Jan. 19. "And ask a lot of the states around us if they have an issue with water, and they'd say it's a key issue, a critical issue for us."

Haslam said the "premise is we shouldn't take water for granted. If you have a water issue, it will drive almost everything else you do. We want to plan now to ensure our communities have access to that."

Haslam's deputy, Jim Henry, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian spearheaded the process.

It makes recommendations in areas including addressing current and pending infrastructure needs, development of a comprehensive water resources planning process, encouraging greater collaboration and communication as well as identifying sustainable funding for all its recommendations.

Other areas include evaluating existing plans to assess their implementation, and using the water-resources task force or advisory committees and regional water-resources jurisdictions to facilitate intrastate and interstate regional cooperation.

Commissioner Meghreblian said "we don't necessarily have to do everything by law. We want to focus on public-private partnerships and how we can collaborate with our folks in the [nonprofit] NGO community and municipalities."

"I think the main thing is there's not one idea or answer that's going to be a cookie cutter across the state, and probably not even in the Plateau areas" she said.

She said one area where "we've seen some success in Tennessee and that we've also seen success in other states is sort of a regional approach. Right now you have a lot of small communities that have their own water, wastewater treatment.

"And that can obviously be very expensive," the commissioner said. "So one particular option is for those communities to collaborate and pull their resources and do some sort of regional water planning."

Haslam deputy Henry said "almost everything we do is riveted around having good, available supplies of water. Quite frankly, we haven't done that much around it" in the past.

He noted water is a major issue in states like Georgia and Florida, which are battling each other in court. Georgia has also threatened to sue Tennessee to get access to the Tennessee River near Chattanooga.

Georgia has based its claim on a faulty 19th Century survey that Georgia officials say wrongly gave Tennessee Georgia land in what is now the Nickajack Lake area in Marion County.

Citing the dispute, Henry told the audience assembled at Haslam's news conference that "I want you to know that we stole those rights fair and square and we're going to keep 'em."

The plan is available for viewing and commenting. It can be found through Feb. 28, 2019, at tn.gov/environment/tnh2o.

 

Haslam, TDEC Release Statewide Water Plan, Request Public Feedback

Official Press Release, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Deputy Gov. Jim Henry and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian, today released the statewide water availability plan developed by subject matter experts and led by a steering committee Haslam appointed earlier this year.

TDEC is now seeking feedback from the public on the plan that assesses current water resources and makes recommendations for steps that can be taken to ensure Tennessee has abundant water resources to support future population and economic growth through 2040.

“Tennessee is blessed with great sources of water today, but we should never take that for granted,” Haslam said. “As our state grows, we must maintain our capacity to meet our water needs. That takes a plan, and I am grateful for the amount of work that has gone into this issue.”

Recommendations from the plan include the following:

·         Address current and impending infrastructure needs. A mechanism should be established to address unserved areas, infrastructure repair/replacement issues, and funding shortfalls faced by rural systems.

·         Develop a comprehensive water resources planning process and planning cycle based on good science and information (consistent monitoring, data collection, modeling, trending, and reporting) that includes all major users and stakeholders.

·         Develop a campaign to help the public and decision makers understand the value of water and natural resources and complexity in managing them.

·         Encourage greater collaboration and communication concerning Tennessee’s water resources.

·         Evaluate existing laws to assess their implementation (e.g., Water Resources Act, Watershed District Act and Water Resources Information Act) and determine and enable proper jurisdictions for regional water planning and programs.

·         Use the state water-resources task force or advisory committee and regional water-resources jurisdictions to facilitate intrastate and interstate regional cooperation.

·         Identify sustainable funding for all TN H2O recommendations.

“This plan will help inform our future leaders – inside and outside of government – on important steps they can take to ensure our abundance of water,” Deputy Governor Henry, who served as chairman of the steering committee, said. “This plan will need continuous and close attention to keep our economy and quality of life thriving for future generations.”

TDEC, which helped organize the development of the plan, is now looking for feedback from the public. The feedback will supplement the report for future decision makers to evaluate as they consider the recommendations put forth by the steering committee and working groups.

“We want citizens to have the ability to comment on the report and have an opportunity to add to the discussion of how we move forward,” said TDEC Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian. “TN H2O is truly Tennessee’s plan, developed by hundreds of citizens from diverse professional backgrounds across the state. Engaging the general public is the logical next step in the process.” 

Tennessee’s population is estimated to double in the next 50 years. This growth, along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and interstate battles over water rights, stressed the need to develop a statewide plan for addressing water availability.

In January 2018, Gov. Haslam announced the appointment of a steering committee of leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. Subject matter experts in various fields were then assembled into working groups to study the current state of water resources.

Working group members interpreted and assessed a wide array of data and information sources using various models and assumptions under a limited time schedule. The resources studied include surface water, groundwater, and natural aquatic systems; related topics included water and wastewater infrastructure, water law and recreation. From that, the volunteer teams synthesized, analyzed and identified gaps in available data and information to arrive at recommendations for key focus areas for achieving and maintaining water availability in the future.

The plan is available for viewing and commenting at tn.gov/environment/tnh2o through February 28, 2018. 

 

 

from Roane County News

By Hugh Willett

Tennessee has lots of water but it needs a plan to ensure that water is managed properly, according to state and Roane County officials who met in Kingston Friday to discuss such a plan.

 “We think the best way to protect Tennessee water is to plan,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Shari Meghreblian.

The plan is called TN H2O.

The initiative was launched in December 2017 and will include an assessment of current water resources, including surface and groundwater infrastructure and natural resources.

When the first draft of the plan is presented to Gov. Bill Haslam in October, its recomendations will include institutional and legal framework to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support future population and economic growth.

State Sen. Ken Yager said that water has been a key element in the history of the development of the state and Roane County.

Deputy Governor Jim Henry said the management of water resources is important to long-term growth and industrial recruitment.

“As far as jobs go, water is important,” Henry said.

Despite the fact that Tennessee generally has a lot of water, there are places, particularly in the southern part of Middle Tennessee, where residents are experiencing water shortages.

“We take water for granted here in Tennessee,” said state Rep. Kent Calfee, who described challenges he’s faced providing water to cattle on his farm in Roane County.

County Executive Ron Woody said that part of the planning process should involve taking care of water resources.

“We have an abundance of water but we have to keep it clean,” he said.

Harriman City Councilman Buddy Holley said he would like the plan to address ways of controlling runoff from steep slopes into the Emory River.

“We have problems with turbidity,” he said.

A key issue under study involves water rights. Across the country and even within the state, water rights are being challenged, Meghreblian said.

Georgia has attempted to claim water from the Tennessee River. Mississippi has claimed water from the Memphis Aquifer, she said.

Kingston City Manager David Bolling suggested the plan include study of how local utilities can work together during water shortages.

He said that when he was Oliver Springs town manager he worked with nearby utilities to access water for the town.

from Chattanooga Times Free Press

The Haslam administration's swan song will aim to address Tennessee's water needs for generations, as global leaders fear water scarcity will impact much of the world's population.

Scientists and other environmentalists warn water scarcity is the largest global risk in terms of potential impact. Representatives from city, Hamilton County and state agencies met with private groups Tuesday morning at Chattanooga's Eastside Utility District to discuss a new potential water plan — TN H2O — that could ensure Tennesseans have an adequate water supply for decades.

"Water is one of our most valuable resources," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said. "The way it serves here in Hamilton County is extremely important. It does attract people to the county because of the river and the resources we're able to offer."

As Gov. Bill Haslam's term comes to an end, he asked state agency representatives what they'd like to achieve before he leaves office. They told him ensuring access to affordable water was a top priority.

Tennessee's population is expected to double in the next 50 years. Although the state now has an abundance of water — a fact that has led to a dispute with Georgia — state leaders are concerned residents could be impacted as the world's water supply becomes increasingly strained.

"That's what this is about, really," Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner Shari Meghreblian said. "It's about trying to take a proactive approach and have a plan in place."

TDEC is leading the development of the plan. A committee of 28 people from public and private sectors, academic institutions and environmental organizations have been appointed to a steering committee to manage the project. The plan will focus strictly on future water quantity, Deputy Gov. Jim Henry said. Other federal and state regulations will continue to focus on quality.

Project leaders know the end goal: to address the state's future water quantity. Now they must determine how to achieve it. To do that, committee members have been traveling across the state to get input about what the plan should entail. The plan is expected to be released for public comment in October.

Local water leader Val Armstrong, president of Tennessee American Water, is a member of the steering committee. She is hopeful the plan will meet the water needs of Tennessee residents well into the future.

"Our goal is to make sure we're planning for future generations," she said. "We don't want to kick the bucket for someone else to solve this issue. We want to be strategic and begin to think about the best steps for us to take to ensure for continued water abundance."

The Haslam administration hopes to have the framework of the plan in place before leaving office.

"This is a huge thing," Henry said. "Governor Haslam thinks this is one of the things we need to do to prepare the next administration to be a little bit better about protecting our resources."

from State Gazette

by Rachel Townsend

On Tuesday, June 19, Tennessee Deputy Gov. Jim Henry and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian, as well as numerous city and state officials, were welcomed to Bunge Grain for a discussion regarding Gov. Bill Haslam’s TN H2O plan.

TN H2O is overseen by TDEC and is expected to provide a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee, including an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support economic growth and future residents.

The plan will focus particular attention to surface and groundwater, water and wastewater infrastructure, water reuse and land conversation and institutional and legal framework.

According to Henry, TN H2O will focus energy and efforts toward utilizing groundwater to make agricultural production more efficient and to prevent crop loss during droughts. Henry noted the Mississippi River’s vital role in transporting goods across world and his vision of seeing all three regions of Tennessee share sustainable success through a water availability plan.

During the program, introductions and opening remarks on TN H2O were made by Jimmy Moody, a local farmer whose Dyer County roots in agriculture trace back roughly 100 years. Moody spoke briefly on the importance of good irrigation, and how technology has transformed agriculture over the years of his career.

Introductions and opening remarks on TN H2O were made by Jimmy Moody.

Col. Michael Ellicot, Corps of Engineers commander of the Memphis District, discussed the important role the river plays in local commerce, making a roughly $37 billion economic impact. was also present at the event. Ellicot is responsible for flood damage, navigation, and other operations along 610-miles of the Mississippi and White Rivers. Ellicot emphasized the key roles of the Mainline Levee and Little Levee, and how local farmers in the area depend on those levees to protect their homes and crops from flooding.

Meghreblian stated there are nearly 100 volunteers, all experts in their field, who have been participating in working groups to develop the TN H2O plan since December of 2017. Meghreblian says the plan is not about regulation but about maintaining water availability across the state, and addressing the challenges of each region of the state and its varying geography.

Meghreblian took time to introduce and thank Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton for his support and efforts in working alongside TDEC.

In October of 2018, a draft of TN H2O will be submitted to Haslam and made available for public input.

from Tennessean

A group of Tennessee’s outdoors leaders sat at a table surrounded by nature on state land previously owned by a prominent Dickson County resident.

The topic of discussion was a resource officials repeatedly said is often taken for granted: Water.

Though Tennessee and Dickson County are in good shape with water, both in amount and quality, state leaders, particularly Gov. Bill Haslam, want to keep it that way.

Among the attendees at 238-acre Buffalo Ridge Refuge included former landowner Tom Beasley, of Burns, as well as Deputy Gov. Jim Henry; Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Executive Director Ed Carter; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian; and state Rep. Michael Curcio, of Dickson.

“You can only mess this up one time,” Henry told the group Tuesday on the TWRA’s Humphreys County land, which adjoins another state-owned 1,500 acres, also owned formerly owned by Beasley.

“If you let a company come into the wrong place or you pollute a river, try cleaning it up afterward. You are talking about a 75-year problem,” Henry added.

The TN H20 plan development was launched in January with completion scheduled for October.

When asked about possible specific actions or guidelines the TN H20 plan would set statewide, TDEC spokesperson Eric Ward said it was too early in the group-meeting process to know. 

Ward did say the plan steering committee members have learned there several variations in water data collection methods statewide among water utilities. 

"Working groups (made up of Tennessee's water utilities' leaders) may consider a solution for how to make data across the various groups more consistent, resulting in better collaboration when issues arise," Ward said. 

Haslam started TN H20 in response to the state’s growing number of residents — the population is estimated to double in 50 years — as well as concerns over use of the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts impacting local communities, failures of some wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights.

Meghreblian said the state is “blessed” with its “abundance of water” and noted that the TN H20 plan is therefore “not a reactionary kind of initiative…”

She cited other Southern states that have run out of water in areas and said TN H20 is “a proactive way to ensure that as we continue to grow in both population and economy, that we are always going to have an abundance of water.”

She admitted this isn’t the first time a group has tried to assemble a statewide water plan.

“But the difference is, this time around, is that we have leadership and support from the top,” said Meghreblian, pointed to Henry and Haslam’s involvement. “That really is the difference at the end of the day.”

The plan will include an assessment of water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has water resources to support future population and economic growth. Public input will be accepted in October once the plan is in place.

TN H2O will focus on surface and groundwater, water and wastewater infrastructure, water reuse and land conservation, as well as institutional and legal framework. TDEC is overseeing the development of TN H2O.

The plan’s steering committee members include Henry, Meghreblian, Carter and Department of Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett.

‘Ways to work together’

Deputy Gov. Jim Henry presents Tom Beasley with a state certificate of recognition from Gov. Bill Haslam for Beasley's work to preserve the state's wilderness and wildlife. (Photo: Chris Gadd/The Herald)

Henry said various water plans already exist around the state “but no one has brought them together.”

Adding to that comment, Meghreblian said “we have to figure out ways to work together.”

When the discussion turned to rural water utilities, Triplett said often the municipalities are stuck in a “which do you do first” situation. He said the utilities or municipalities “are in a situation where they can’t take any more (water) loads because their infrastructure is too old and they don’t have the money to do it.”

“But you need the development,” Triplett added. “But you can’t do the development without the infrastructure.”

He said it’s hard to convince some citizens a rate hike is a good investment to improve infrastructure.

Curcio, who was at the event, said he was excited about the plan because it seems that “not only are (rural communities) a part of this plan...but they are a feature of it.”

Dickson County has a connection to the plan with the inclusion of Water Authority of Dickson Dickson Executive Director Michael Adams who is part of the TN H20 Infrastructure working group.

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of this,” Henry said. “I think future Tennesseans are going to have a plan they can live by and stay on track.”from Tennesseean

 

from TN Ledger

As people and businesses pour into Tennessee, state leaders are working on a plan to keep its taps flowing.

The water management plan, TNH2O, is a legacy project for Governor Bill Haslam, who assembled a high-level group in January to ensure the state’s water supply can flow in abundance and to the right places as population growth, development and new business transform the face of Tennessee over coming decades.

“We are very blessed with an abundance of water resources, so there is no threat or concern of running out of water,” says Dr. Shari Meghreblian, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

“But this is something that you want to have a plan for well in advance so that not only as the population increases but as different events occur – changing weather patterns or different industries coming to the state – that we have a plan to focus our resources in the areas needed.”

TNH2O is composed of representatives from municipalities, utilities, industry, conservation groups, agriculture, universities and government, plus more than 100 volunteers. All are stakeholders in ensuring a safe and adequate supply of water for drinking, recreation, economic development and agriculture.

The concern is not unfounded. The swelling population in Middle Tennessee – and slower but significant growth in urban centers like Clarksville, Knoxville, Cookeville and Chattanooga – along with the influx of new businesses and people into Tennessee are already putting pressures on water infrastructure. The state’s population is projected to rise from 6.7 million to 7.8 million by 2040, the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research reports.

Failure to plan for water management has had severe consequences elsewhere in the country and around the globe. Earlier this year, the city of Cape Town, South Africa, threatened to shut off water to four million residents if they did not reduce their water use to 13 gallons per person per day, below United Nations minimum guidelines for human use.

The city’s dwindling water supply came after a three-year drought combined with a near-doubling of its population over the past 20 years without proportional investments in infrastructure.

California, which declared a state of emergency during the recent five-year drought, enacted new laws next month that set targets of 55 gallons of indoor water use per person per day by 2022 and 50 gallons by 2030. Residents currently use about 90 gallons per person indoors and outdoors.

Georgia and Florida have been tussling for decades over water rights to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which flows through Georgia into Florida. Florida argues that urban development in Atlanta has diverted so much water from the rivers that it has depleted the flow into the Apalachicola Bay, destroying its oyster harvest.

The state is asking for a usage cap to be placed on Georgia. Georgia officials say that would harm its agricultural sector and threaten the water supply of 5 million Atlanta residents. The case was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in January and is being closely watched by western states such as Colorado that are grappling with their own multi-state water issues.

While Tennessee hasn’t had to enact water restrictions, smaller communities on the Cumberland Plateau sometimes face issues accessing readily available water during droughts, Meghreblian explains.

“You see growth in different parts of Tennessee and then you see smaller rural areas where it is increasingly difficult to raise the money for the upkeep of aging infrastructure,” she adds.

“So there are these various and sundry issues across the state and when you look around at how other states that have experienced water availability issues, it’s important that this state has a framework for a state water plan that at least provides a method of measuring, tracking and planning for water supply.”

Extreme rain events

Meghreblian says there’s no indication the well will run dry. In fact, TNH2O has noted that Tennessee will get more water from “rain events” over the next 20 years, according to projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

But such rain events tend to dump precipitation in a concentrated fashion – raining harder and longer – that presents its own problems for urban stormwater management and runoff of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides into waterways when ground gets too saturated to absorb it.

Urban streams that serve the largest number of people are subject to increased pollution from development and industry. And waterways near agriculture are vulnerable to runoff of chemicals from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, especially after storms where rain comes down too hard and fast to be absorbed into the soil, but instead carries contaminants with it as it flows across the soil into rivers and streams.

That’s exactly the kind of rain event that NOAA is projecting more of.

“It’s an expensive endeavor to make sure water is treated to a level that it safe for us to consume,” says Dana Wright, water policy director of the Knoxville-based Tennessee Clean Water Network.

“Every time something gets into our waterways it’s more work for water treatment plants to make it drinkable.”

Another stressor is factory farms such as the new Tyson Foods chicken processing plant coming to Humboldt. The meat processor came to Tennessee after it was rejected by a site in Kansas due in part to Tyson’s record as one of the nation’s worst agricultural polluters, with numerous documented instances of chemical spills, exceeding wastewater permits and dumping of toxins into waterways.

Instead of building its own onsite water treatment center in Humboldt, Tyson plans to divert vast quantities of its wastewater to the local utility, which will require significant upgrades.

Officials say Tyson has cleaned up its act, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean attended the factory ground breaking, even though his wife Anne Davis had fought against such operations in her work for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Weakening rules

As the TNH2O group focuses on quantity, some environmental groups are concerned that changes on the federal level may trickle down to the state, weakening rule-making around Tennessee’s fairly strong water quality acts and making the state’s water supply more vulnerable to contamination.

Of special concern are rules relating to leakage from coal ash ponds. Under the Obama administration, fairly strict rules were put in place requiring states and utilities like TVA to monitor groundwater around existing coal ash ponds and come up with closure plans for the ponds that would protect water quality. But current EPA chief Scott Pruitt has initiated new rule-making to roll back those standards.

That’s particularly worrisome because much of Middle and East Tennessee sits atop limestone, a soluble rock that forms complex underground drainage systems characterized by surface features like sinkholes and caves, what is known as a karst landscape.

In fact, Tennessee’s 8,000 caves are far more than any state in the country, according to caves.org. Missouri is second with more than 4,000 caves.

Unfortunately, that also provides an easy conduit for leakage from the bottom of coal ash ponds to get into water sources.

“There are these direct connections through the limestone between apparently remote locations and the nearest surface waters,” says Scott Banbury, a registered lobbyist with the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club who is based in Memphis.

“We’ve had numerous issues over the years where a landfill or recycling facility is discharging into a sinkhole thinking that it’s going into the ground and we’ll never see it again, but then it pops up nearby in the Tennessee River or Cumberland.”

In West Tennessee, residents are fighting TVA’s plan to draw 3.5 million gallons of water a day from the Memphis Sand Aquifer due to contamination concerns. TVA, which wants to cool a new energy plant with the water, has admitted finding high levels of arsenic, lead and fluoride under its coal ash pit located near wells TVA drilled into the aquifer. The aquifer supplies the city with what has been called “the world’s sweetest water.”

Legislative rollback

Banbury also is concerned over a growing trend in the Legislature that favors the rollback of state laws regarding water quality so they are no stricter than federal law.

The Tennessee Homebuilders Association, for example, has been lobbying the General Assembly to relax its stormwater regulations to the federal standard. But federal guidelines only stipulate states protect water quality from stormwater “to the maximum extent practicable.”

That case is currently in the Tennessee administrative court system.

“In Tennessee, a lot of our water quality regulations are stronger than the federal rules,” Banbury points out.

“We’re way better off than a lot of states. So as we see this trend in our legislature to be no stricter than federal, and we see federal becoming less strict, we’re seeing a big step backward.”

Wright says the state’s unique environmental features merit the extra protection.

“Tennessee is not like the rest of the country,” she adds. “We want rules that are specific to our resources and protect what we have here and the biodiversity in our streams.

“Tourism is a huge industry in Tennessee, and we want to make sure that people keep wanting to come here to hike, kayak, to fish. So we need to make sure we protect those resources on two levels, for their economic value and for the value of having clean and safe water to drink.”

Meghreblian, who became TDEC commissioner in May, says she couldn’t agree more. The TNH2O group is operating under the assumption that state laws like the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and the regulatory structure that governs it will protect the water supply.

“Quantity and quality have to go together,” she says. “If you have a huge quantity of nasty, unusable water that’s not going to do any good.

“So it all has to go hand-in-hand.”

TNH2O working groups on groundwater, surface water, infrastructure, natural resources, regulation and data centralization will present their findings and recommendations to the governor this fall.

So far, the group has found gaps and inconsistencies among the many groups that collect water data in the state. TNH2O will make recommendations on filling those gaps and making data more accessible to allow for better collaboration on issues like managing the water supply, infrastructure needs, leak detection and distribution systems.

“This is not a one and done exercise. It’s really to identify where gaps are, and one of the recommendations will likely be setting up a framework for a continued, consistent review and updating of the plan to account for changes over time, whether it’s changes in the weather or population,” Meghreblian explains.

“This is really taking a long view and recognizing how important an adequate sufficient supply of quality water is to all these things that we hold so near and dear in Tennessee – outdoor recreation and economic growth.

“This is such a great place to live and work but if we didn’t have all the great water and natural resources it wouldn’t be. So you need to plan for it before you have to plan for it. If you’re doing this kind of planning in a reactionary mode, it’s too late.”

from The Daily Times 

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.”

— Norman Maclean, “A River Runs Through It”

Noted author Maclean, who died in 1990 at the age of 87, may have captured something more than he realized when he hit upon river as metaphor. Not referencing the lyrical, insightful thrust of the first paragraph of the quote, not that part. The last sentence, “I am haunted by waters.” That’s the essence.

While the world has been obsessed with oil as the fluid that lubricates economies — liquid gold it’s called — a broader perspective would put that notion to rest. Consider the course of human history, then look ahead to the future. Everywhere, you’ll find water at the crux, especially if there is not enough to drink or grow crops.

In 2016, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence ranked water scarcity as second only to terrorism as the greatest threat to our national security. The aging infrastructure was tapped as the major concern. Worsening droughts was another.

If nothing else, many places in America will have to face the end of inexpensive water. It’s not complicated. The oldest economic principle in the book lays it out in three words: supply and demand.

It would be easy for Tennesseans, with our rivers and reservoirs, to presume our state is immune to such circumstance. Bill Haslam doesn’t think so, and the governor is right.

In January, to not much acclaim, he appointed a steering committee of leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee.

The plan is called TN H2O. The initiative will include an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water to support future population and economic growth. The steering committee will submit a draft of TN H2O to the governor and will make it available for public input by October.

You’re probably thinking, nothing wrong with that, but what’s the point? Maybe not much of one, not unless you think Tennessee’s manufacturing, agriculture, energy and tourism efforts can do without an abundant supply of water.

Go ahead, go the kitchen, turn on the tap, fill a glass with crystal clarity that never fails to quench your thirst. Take it for granted.

Haslam notes that abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life. It is a natural resource that has to be managed appropriately for the state to continue to grow and prosper. The governor is right.

Tennessee’s population is estimated to double in the next 50 years. This growth, along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights, all stress the need to develop a statewide plan for addressing water availability.

Imagine you’re living in Flint, Mich. You’re handing a glass of tap water to your child to drink. You’re wondering if you’re being a terrible parent, trusting the government again. Wondering if it’s so pure and safe, why is it tinted? Why does it have an odor?

TN H2O will pay particular attention to surface and groundwater, water and wastewater infrastructure, water reuse and land conservation, as well as institutional and legal framework. Working groups composed of subject matter experts will conduct the research and gather information. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will oversee the development of TN H2O.

It’s not a moment too soon to ensure Tennessee is guaranteed an abundant and quality supply of water. You may not see it now, looking through that clear glass, but time is running out. Drip, drip, drip.

from Johnson City Press

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a steering committee of government officials, business leaders and environmental advocates to formulate a plan to protect Tennessee’s valuable water supply. A draft of this plan, to be designated TN H2O, is expected to be on the governor’s desk by October.

Haslam said protecting the availability of a clean and reliable water supply in Tennessee is vital to support this state’s growing population and sustain economic growth.

“Abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life,” Haslam said in a news release. “We need to ensure this critical natural resource is managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.”

Concerns about the Memphis Sands Aquifer, an aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and interstate battles over water rights have stressed the need for a statewide plan for addressing water availability.

In recent years, state legislators in Georgia have tried a number of schemes to siphon water from the Tennessee River.

Dry conditions across the Southeast have made water supply and river management a key issue for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Cities like Atlanta would love to have access to TVA’s water resources. Key to those resources is the Tennessee River, which empties as much water by volume into the Ohio as the much-longer Missouri does into the Mississippi.

A reliable water supply is a community’s lifeblood. It’s what fuels growth and development. Without it, communities literally dry up and become ghost towns.

Here in Johnson City, administrators have been careful to prepare a long-range plan to address much-needed capital needs in the water and sewer systems.

Municipalities with overburdened or failing sewer systems often find themselves placed under state and federal scrutiny. There are a number of communities in Tennessee that are under moratoriums that prohibit new building permits to be issued until major improvements are made to their systems.

Johnson City officials say they don’t want to become one of those areas where development has been strangled by an inadequate water/sewer system.

 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has appointed a steering committee of leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee.

The plan, TN H2O, will include an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support future population and economic growth. The steering committee will submit a draft of TN H2O to the governor and will make it available for public input by October 2018.

"Abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life,” Haslam said. “We need to ensure this critical natural resource is managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.”

Tennessee’s population is estimated to double in the next 50 years. This growth, along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights, all stress the need to develop a statewide plan for addressing water availability.

Tennessee Deputy to the Gov. Jim Henry serves as chairman of the steering committee.

“Tennessee’s manufacturing, agriculture, energy and tourism efforts benefit greatly from our water resources,” Henry said. “I am honored to help lead this important initiative and look forward to presenting the TN H2O plan to the governor in October.”

TN H2O will pay particular attention to surface and groundwater, water and wastewater infrastructure, water reuse and land conservation, as well as institutional and legal framework. Working groups composed of subject matter experts will conduct the research and gather information. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) will oversee the development of TN H2O.

“A statewide plan will position the public and private sectors to better understand how to best preserve our water resources,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said. “The time is now to make mindful, fact-driven recommendations for the future of our water.”

Below is the full list of steering committee members:

  • Jim Henry, Deputy to the Governor, State of Tennessee
  • Randy McNally, Lieutenant Governor, State of Tennessee
  • Beth Harwell, Speaker of the House of Representatives, State of Tennessee
  • Dr. John Dreyzehner, Commissioner, Department of Health
  • Bob Martineau, Commissioner, Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Bob Rolfe, Commissioner, Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Jai Templeton, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture
  • Kevin Triplett, Commissioner, Department of Tourism
  • Ed Carter, Executive Director, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  • Dr. Shari Meghreblian, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Dr. Ken Moore, Mayor, City of Franklin
  • Jim Strickland, Mayor, City of Memphis
  • Dr. Philip Oldham, President, Tennessee Technological University
  • Jerri S. Bryant, Chancellor, 10th Judicial District
  • Jeff Aiken, President, Tennessee Farm Bureau
  • Valoria Armstrong, President, Tennessee American Water Co.
  • Bill Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Col. Michael A. Ellicott, Jr., Commander, USACE Memphis District
  • Michael Butler, Chief Executive Officer, Tennessee Wildlife Federation
  • Hanneke Counts, Vice President, Eastman Chemical
  • Lt. Col. Cullen A. Jones, Commander, USACE Nashville District
  • Bob Freudenthal, Executive Director, Tennessee Association of Utility Districts
  • W. Scott Gain, Director, US Geological Survey
  • Mekayle Houghton, Executive Director, Cumberland River Compact
  • Kevin Igli, Senior Vice President, Tyson Foods
  • Bo Perkinson, Board President, Tennessee Municipal League