State water conservation tops priorities, senator says

by robert stewart

A state senator on Saturday stressed the importance of water conservation in Louisiana and outlined several points he said are necessary for Louisiana’s Water Resources Commission to consider when creating a comprehensive water management plan for the state.

Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, outlined his water proposals in a speech delivered during the Louisiana Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors Luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Constitution Avenue.

Long, who is mulling a run for governor in 2015, is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Long is a member of the Water Resources Commission, which originally was known as the Louisiana Ground Water Resources Commission, but renamed in 2012 and given more authority to study the state’s surface water resources as well as its groundwater.

State law calls for the commission to evaluate the state’s groundwater resources and develop a water use conservation program.

Long said in his speech that Louisiana is one of only nine states without a comprehensive water management plan.

Long said the commission’s plan must be conservation-oriented and environmentally sustainable.

“If we are not conserving what we have today, in years to come, we may apologize to our children and grandchildren that we did not conserve this valuable natural resource,” Long said.

Long also said water must be used an economic tool in Louisiana. “I believe there will come a time in Louisiana when we will offer business and industry not an incentive of cash or rebate or credit, we’ll say, ‘We’ll provide your water needs for the next 10 years,’” he said.

Long spoke at length about Louisiana selling water to other states.

He specifically noted legislation he sponsored in the state Legislature’s 2012 session that required the Sabine River Authority, which oversees water in the Sabine River and its tributaries, to obtain legislative committee and certain local government approval for out-of-state water sales. The legislation was enacted.

Long said the state can sell water, but must do so wisely and carefully. He said only surplus water should be sold and not tied to a long-term contract.

“We have an abundance of water, but we have to be good stewards of it and we have to have a game plan,” he said.

Long said Louisiana is one of six states that is “water independent,” meaning the state does not need to buy water from other states. “We’re sitting in the driver’s seat like no other state is,” he said.

Long said he also believes that in 10 to 15 years, water will be in demand just like crude oil and natural gas are now.

“It will be that absolutely essential,” he said.

Long said in an interview after his speech that the water management plan could take three years to craft. He said Oklahoma took three to four years to create a similar proposal.

Long’s speech was part of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation’s 74th annual convention this weekend.

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation and protection of the state’s natural resources.