MOULTRIE -- When an area like southwest Georgia has experienced more than 10 inches of rain in recent weeks, perhaps the subjects of water regulations and restrictions are far from the public's mind. But, lawmakers have that subject on their agenda as well as redistricting. And, the two may be related.

Redistricting and water use were the main topics discussed at the Young Farmer Legislative Dinner held Saturday at the Colquitt County Farm Bureau.

State House Representatives Austin Scott, Ed Rynders and Richard Royal addressed the crowd of about 30 people regarding those issues and farming representation in general. They also briefly discussed issues that affect the entire state.

Rynders and Royal said the state's redistricting battle would create fewer representatives in the rural areas of the state which may also impact decisions on water usage in Georgia. Rynders said the redistricting would remove Colquitt County from his district, and that disturbs him because of the relationships he has built in Colquitt County.

"Colquitt County is about 28 percent of my district, and more than likely, when the redistricting is done," Rynders said, "I will lose that. That causes me some concern, frankly, because I've developed such wonderful relationships over here with people that I can now smile and proudly call friends."

Royal said if the courts draw out the districts rather than the state Legislature, the representation of rural areas could be destroyed.

A question addressed to the representatives was related to the use of water meters being placed on wells and the consumption of surface water. Royal said that meters are now being voluntarily placed onto some wells, which the state pays for using the tobacco funding.

"I think it's good we can get some scientific data that backs up how much water we are using because I think they're estimating we're using twice as much, especially ground water, than we're using," said Royal.

Royal said legislation was introduced this week placing limitations on interbasin transfers of water, which means water can't be taken from south Georgia and used in Atlanta.

Rynders said there is a lack of information among urban area legislators about how much water South Georgia needs for agriculture. He also expressed concern about measuring water use now because the state is not currently in a drought.

"I am not convinced they are sympathetic to the cause in terms of metering," Rynders said. "I am a little concerned that once we start metering and keeping up with (water usage), that 'Plan B' may be in the future allocation. I'm just concerned that we may not have the votes in the rural part of the state to stop anybody that may want to do that kind of allocation."

Scott said the water issues are vital regardless of political party affiliation. Water is more of a property issue, and people will have more interest in taking care of that water.

"We have to take care of our assets," Scott said. "I am not in favor of splitting the rights of water from the rights of property. Some people in agriculture have been working to make water a derivative of the property. I want to keep the two tied together."

All three representatives said they agreed the metering was important to show how much water is needed for agriculture.

Other topics discussed by the representatives were the search of items to cut from the $109 million needed to be trimmed from the budget, such as the retirement fund of the University of Georgia's College of Agriculture Extension Services. Also brought up was the need for health care reform at a national level, the passage of a poultry bill in the House and the potential of a governmental tobacco buyout.

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