CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Increased demand and competition for water supplies in the Southeast will be the focus of a regional conference here August 24-26.
Rapid population growth, economic development and increasing water demand are creating conflicts over regional water supplies, Dr. David Feldman, a University of Tennessee environmental policy analyst, said.
Feldman will lead the Southeast Water Resources Symposium at the Chattanooga Marriott and Tennessee Aquarium. The meeting is expected to attract more than 150 researchers, policymakers, environmentalists, planners and developers.
Despite the region’s plentiful water supply, conflicts between multiple users are increasing, Feldman said.
”We are starting to see conflicts emerging as multiple usage increases,” Feldman said. ”For example, industrial or agricultural usage may affect recreation and water quality, while power generation may affect navigation and flood control. The problem of providing water for all these uses has become an important issue.”
Feldman, of UT-Knoxville’s Energy, Environment and Resources Center, said Atlanta is considering the Tennessee River as a new water source — a move which could affect Chattanooga’s water supply.
Virginia Beach is siphoning water from Lake Gaston at the North Carolina border, he said, but some North Carolina residents near the lake fear it increases likelihood of water shortages for them, especially during droughts.
Also, water demand is escalating faster than expected in rural areas that are becoming more urban and industrialized, he said.
”Our current water management institutions were not planned to deal with these kinds of challenges and this kind of growth,” Feldman said. ”We may need to rethink them.”
The symposium’s scheduled speakers include water management officials from Texas and Florida, where increased demand and conflicts have spurred new water management policies.
The program includes officials from Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Army Corps of Engineers reporting on water usage trends in the region, potential water-usage agreements between states and the feasibility of charging fees for water usage.
”This symposium seeks to get the issues out on the table and start seeking avenues towards possible long-term solutions,” Feldman said. ”It is time to address these issues before they reach crisis proportions and begin planning long-term arrangements that are fair to everybody.”
The conference is sponsored by the University of Tennessee, TVA, EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, Appalachian Regional Commission, Chattanooga Institute of Sustainability, River Valley Partners, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Southern States Energy Board.