"Once you start selling water, you can't sell it just to farmers or cities," says Stephen Draper, a leading critic of permit trading.
"It's very difficult to write [legislation] crafted so that out-of-state buyers won't be able to buy [water], and then international water buyers won't want to come in, too." Draper has a law degree, a business degree and a doctorate, all of which he's put to use in a 40-year career that's stayed sharply focused on water science, water engineering and water law.He began dealing with water as an engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Most recently, he
served for three years as Gov.Roy Barnes' water policy adviser.
Under the best-case scenario, Draper
says, buying and selling Georgia permits would mean the individuals, municipalities and corporations that owned water rights would replace the current steward, the state Environmental Protection Division.Profits might take precedence over fish and waterfowl.
At worst, frenzied permit trading would generate bidding wars, leaving rich areas able to afford water while poor areas went without.With special interests constantly lobbying regulators, more water might be pulled from one basin, parching its streams, while economically deprived towns would have to watch swollen rivers flow by because they couldn't afford a permit.As water became scarcer, the taps in the homes of the have-nots might run dry.
So it's understandable if Rothfeder, Draper
and a host of other critics worry that Colorado's problems are about to take root in Georgia.
submitted several white papers, some warning against permit swapping, others discussing water rights. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce
-- with help from a Georgia-Pacific
executive and attorneys from the silk-stocking Troutman Sanders and Kilpatrick Stockton law firms -- issued a white paper in favor of unfettered permit trading.
...Thanks to the persistent urging of Draper and Georgia Conservancy President John Sibley, a draft report included a recommendation to designate water a public resource.
argued that failing to insert the clause would mean "state, national and international water marketers can come to Georgia and take the water out of Georgia.We will have lost the ability for Georgia to manage its water."
The committee voted 9-6 to ax the seven environmental protections from its final recommendations.