Effective immediately, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will prohibit new groundwater withdrawals in the Coastal Georgia counties of Chatham, Bryan, Liberty and the portion of Effingham County south of Highway 119.
The permitting moratorium applies to community public-water systems and municipal and industrial groundwater supplies from the entire Floridan aquifer. The aquifer is a source of fresh water for the coastal region, but increased withdrawals have been linked to saltwater seeping into the groundwater in the area around Hilton Head, S.C.
The EPD addressed the issue in 2006 with the Coastal Georgia Water and Wastewater Permitting Plan for Managing Salt Water Intrusion, which prohibited new withdrawals from the upper Floridan aquifer. The CPP allowed limited withdrawals from the lower Floridan aquifer.
However, the EPD and the U.S. Geological Survey conducted recent groundwater studies and the results show the upper and lower sections of the aquifer are interconnected. This research prompted the need for a moratorium on all future withdrawals from the entire aquifer.
Applications for withdrawals from the lower section of the Floridan aquifer already received still will be considered, but no new applications will be accepted. The EPD will consider allowing privately owned community public-water systems to increase their withdrawals if the EPD has pre-approved the expansion.
Farmers in the four impacted counties who already hold farm-use-water-withdrawal permits from the EPD are not affected by this moratorium. However, applications for new farm-use permits will not be considered.
The EPD restrictions on the Floridan aquifer will require potential users to consider other sources of water, such as surface water, desalination of sea water and other aquifers.