Georgia plans to test a new underground water storage system.
The $4 million experiment aims to determine if expanding underground aquifers will help with the state's water woes.
Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) essentially builds vast underground caverns that hold water.
Its backers say it will help wildlife by keeping more water in struggling rivers when people need it most during dry summers.
But Georgia River Network Director April Ingle says the project's cost could reach $1 billion and threaten water quality.
"We have options that make a lot more sense, are a lot less risky and a lot less expensive," Ingle says. "And I think those are the paths we ought to pursue."
Ingle says the answer to Georgia's water shortages is conservation.
The National Groundwater Association has a position paper calling ASR a way "to help achieve water supply reliability and sustainability."
The organization's Bill Alley says the method has been used successfully around the country since the first underground well in coastal New Jersey in 1969.
"It's used a lot," Alley says. "But it requires a careful look at the water quality aspects in terms of either release of natural contaminants like arsenic or just mixing of the water that takes place."
Department of Natural Resources board members will decide today whether to lease property for the test in Southwest Georgia's Baker County.
Corrections: An earlier version of this story stated that ASR has never been tried in Georgia. It was previously tested in Northwest Georgia near Dalton Utilities' Mill Creek Water Treatment Plant in Dalton. That test found "insufficient groundwater yield to justify further development," according to a document prepared by Gainesville, Fla.-based ASR Systems LLC for the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission.