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Governor Perdue Announces WaterFirst Program

Tuesday, March 4, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the launching of WaterFirst, a program designed to enable communities to better protect and manage water resources. The WaterFirst Community Program, a technical assistance and recognition program, will help communities make the connection between land use and water quality and quantity. Perdue revealed the selection of eleven communities to participate in the inaugural WaterFirst class. Other communities are being recommended for peer review to determine if they qualify for the WaterFirst designation.

"WaterFirst is a proactive approach to protecting and managing our invaluable water resources," said Governor Perdue. "Putting water first is an important step that communities can take to protect water resources for environmental, economic, social, and health benefits."

The WaterFirst class, selected from over 40 applicants, includes the cities of Fairburn, Hartwell, Jesup, and Richmond Hill, Lee County, and the multi-jurisdictional applicants Flowery Branch-Gainesville-Hall County and Baldwin County-Eatonton-Putnam County. The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and its program partners will provide specialized assistance to these cities and counties to help them become WaterFirst communities. In addition, Gwinnett County, the city of Savannah and the multi-jurisdictional application submitted by Clayton County, for the Clayton County Water Authority and most municipalities within the county, will undergo an on-site peer review to confirm that they have already met all the criteria necessary to immediately earn the WaterFirst designation.

As both the quality and quantity of Georgia's water becomes a high priority statewide, the need to assist local governments in dealing with the often complex and difficult issues surrounding water resources has also become a high priority for DCA. "We are very excited about the WaterFirst Community Program," said DCA Commissioner, Laura Meadows "and truly believe that it fulfills a need to assist communities with their efforts to protect and manage our shared water resources."

The WaterFirst Community Program is a voluntary partnership between local governments, state and federal agencies and other organizations. "I am pleased to see our state agencies working together and in cooperation with local governments to enhance the quality of life in Georgia," Governor Perdue added. The program focuses on eight water related components: Watershed Assessment and Planning; Stormwater Management; Water Supply Planning; Water Conservation; Water Supply Protection; Wastewater Treatment and Management; Water Reclamation and Reuse; and Residual Biosolids Management.

Over the next year, DCA will work with the WaterFirst class to help those communities go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the law in the eight components. Upon reaching the WaterFirst designation, communities will become eligible for benefits from multiple state agencies including DCA and the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.