Bill could take away local control of water protection from Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A bill proposed at the state level could remove local water protection from Shelby County and transfer it to the state.

Senate Bill 2668, sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), and House Bill 2813, sponsored by Rep. Curtis Halford (R-Dyer), would take away local authority to control wells.

WREG has not been able to reach the bill’s sponsors, but local activist Ward Archer, president of Protect Our Aquifer, thinks the bill would set back years of hard work.

“It’s going to un-protect our aquifer, which we’ve been trying to do a better job of for years,” Archer said.

Archer said the state taking authority of wells would be problematic, as Shelby County is the largest metro area in the country that gets its water from the ground. Most other Tennessee counties primarily use surface water.

Archer said he sees the bill as a way of the state attempting to help farmers. But with Shelby County having much less farmland than other Tennessee counties, he said Shelby County’s water is better off under the authority of the Shelby County Groundwater Control Board.

Memphis’ groundwater has been a hot topic for years. The Memphis Sands Aquifer underground provides water to the city and allows Memphis residents to enjoy some of the most pristine, clean water in the country.

Sen. Gresham’s office sent WREG the following statement Wendesday:

“There is no intention for this legislation to move forward in its current form. This is a caption bill. The purpose of a caption bill is to open a part of Tennessee Code Annotated with the intention of bringing an amendment to provide specific content or address specific needs later. While this bill opens the caption on water rights, the intention of the legislation has not yet been determined. If the bill moves forward, an amendment will be forthcoming to provide further clarity to the subject.”

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