(JACKSON, Miss.) — For the 2021 General Permit to withdraw groundwater from the waters of the state, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), in consultation with stakeholders, has proposed changes that include reducing the time to implement conservation practices from three years to one year, adding descriptions of conservation practices, and informing the permit holder that the permitted acreage may be inspected for compliance with the permit requirements.

“Groundwater wells in the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer (MRVA) supply water for irrigation, aquaculture, and wildlife habitat enhancement in the Delta,” said Kay Whittington, Director of MDEQ’s Office of Land and Water Resources. “Since the early 1980s, water levels in the MRVA have declined significantly, in some places by almost a foot a year.”

MDEQ, the Environmental Quality Permit Board, and the Commission on Environmental Quality have the statutory responsibility and authority to ensure maximum sustainable beneficial use of the state’s waters and to conserve and prevent waste or unreasonable use of those waters.

At a recent meeting of the Delta Sustainable Water Resource Task Force (Task Force) the attendees were updated on the general permit revisions as well as water use, water levels, modeling and a pilot project to transfer groundwater from one part of the aquifer to another.

“Periodic revision of the general permit is critical in maintaining an effective tool for achieving efficient water management while other solutions that might help stabilize declines in MRVA water levels are evaluated through data collection and improved modeling of the system in coordination with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and members of the Task Force,” said Whittington.

In November 2011, MDEQ organized the Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force to get input from stakeholders including the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District, Delta Council, Farm Bureau, Delta FARM, the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, NRCS and the Corps of Engineers on the implementation of strategies and plans to ensure the future sustainability of water resources in the Delta. The Task Force identified efficient water use and other conservation practices as the highest priority to reduce pressure on the aquifer and has provided input on the General Permit revisions of 2016 and 2021.

A permit from the Permit Board is required before any person can use the waters of the state, with exceptions for domestic use or uses of small exempted quantities. The water use permit is a tool for ensuring the conservation of water and the prevention of waste. In January 2011, MDEQ, in consultation with the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District (YMD), decreased the MRVA permit duration from ten to five years and started requiring the implementation of water conservation practices due to concerns about MRVA water level declines. In 2016, the General Permit was revised to refine the list of water conservation practices to include those proven to be most effective based on research by Mississippi State University.

Persons wishing to comment upon the 2021 proposed General Permit are invited to submit comments in writing to Chris Hawkins at chawkins@mdeq.ms.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 18, 2020. All comments received by this date will be considered in the formulation of final determinations regarding issuance of the General Permit. For additional details regarding the General Permit, Mr. Hawkins can also be contacted by telephone at (601) 961-5775. The public notice and draft permit can be found here.