Welcome to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs

Water Resources Technical Assistance

Program Description | Downloads & Related Links | Contact Information

Program Information

WaterFirst Brochure

2017 WaterFirst Application

2017 WaterFirst Application Checklist

WaterFirst Designated Communities

WaterFirst Program Partners


WaterFirst Workshop

The WaterFirst Workshop is designed for communities that are interested

in applying for WaterFirst Designation. 

Presentations from the September 14, 2016 - Workshop:

WaterFirst Introduction

Cost Effective Conservation Programs


Public Education




Water Audit Basics

Water Supply



Program Description

Georgia’s water issues are complex and challenging. Our Water Resources Management program can help local governments understand and meet these challenges.  We encourage all local governments to be good stewards of water (and all other) resources. 

Whether rural, urban, or somewhere in-between, each Georgia community has the capacity to take care of its resources.  We design our educational and technical assistance to help each interested government understand its needs, obligations, and abilities to provide access to clean water to its citizens.

Local government water stewardship includes seven categories:

  • Watershed Assessment
  • Stormwater Master Planning
  • Water Supply Planning
  • Water Supply Protection
  • Water Conservation
  • Wastewater Treatment Systems and Management
  • Water Reclamation and Reuse

We offer a three-tiered approach to assistance in each of the seven categories to meet the needs of a variety of governments.  Many governments begin their water stewardship by learning how to meet the state’s legal requirements for water quality.  Others may exceed some requirements, but are interested in pursuing excellence, and several Georgia governments are designated WaterFirst communities, meaning that they achieve and maintain a high level of water stewardship excellence.  The Department considers these communities examples and mentors for other governments statewide. 

Tier I:  Community Planning Assistance:  How Can We Help?

Community Planning Institute – Water Resources:  This workshop gives planners, local officials and community advocates an introduction to water management issues in Georgia.  It provides an overview of how a variety of community decisions will affect water quantity and quality, with a particular emphasis on land use and development issues.

Community Water Assessments:  What Do You Have?

A local government interested in pursuing excellence in water quality should complete a water assessment as its first step.  Our assessment checklist help identify the community’s current water-related decision-making policies and regulations in the seven categories of water stewardship:

  • Watershed Assessment
  • Stormwater Master Planning
  • Water Supply Planning
  • Water Supply Protection
  • Water Conservation
  • Wastewater Treatment Systems and Management
  • Water Reclamation and Reuse

Our staff will review the completed assessment and make recommendations regarding other communities to consult for mentoring and further assistance; as well as provide additional resources for water stewardship.  Some communities may be eligible for a Resource Team visit from PEM staff that will provide assistance in specific, pre-identified categories.

Water Resources Toolkit for Local Governments:  this ONLINE resource is a basic educational tool for local officials and citizens, as well as a valuable resource for those familiar with water issues. The Department and its partners work to continuously update the Toolkit to include more resources related to Georgia's Water Conservation Implementation Plan and the Regional and Statewide Comprehensive Water Management Plans.

Tier II:  WaterFirst Class:  Pursuing Excellence in Water Stewardship

Some communities will require assistance to address their water issues. After completing a Community Water Assessment and the WaterFirst application, communities may qualify for the WaterFirst Class.   Local governments interested in achieving the WaterFirst designation may join the class to improve their stewardship capacities and meet the rigorous standards of Georgia’s WaterFirst program. Throughout the class, PEM staff will work with each community to help it achieve the goals necessary for WaterFirst designation.  Instructors will identify current WaterFirst governments to serve as mentors for class participants.

Communities that meet the requirements of the WaterFirst Program may skip this step. 


Tier III:  Designation as a WaterFirst Community:

Keep Up the Good Work!

The WaterFirst Community program is available to those governments that have achieved excellence in water resource management.   The  Department  gives statewide recognition to communities meeting the goals of the WaterFirst program.  As a WaterFirst Community a local government is eligible for financial and other benefits from the state.  Becoming a WaterFirst community demonstrates a government's commitment to responsible water stewardship for environmental and economic benefits today and in the future.

WaterFirst is:

  • A voluntary partnership between local governments, state agencies and other organizations working together to increase the quality of life in communities through the wise management and protection of water resources
  • Thinking beyond political boundaries, recognizing the inextricable links created by shared water resources, and considering the watershed as a whole
  • Pursuing and rewarding environmental excellence beyond what is required by law in the management and protection of water resources
  • An important step that communities can take to protect valuable water resources for both environmental and economic benefits today and tomorrow.

PEM staff will determine a community's readiness for an on-site review; either through the WaterFirst application or the WaterFirst class, and a team of water professionals will audit the local government’s pertinent programs.  If the review team gives a passing grade, the Department will designate the community.  At that time the designated community is eligible for the following benefits:


Contact Information

For more information about Planning and Environmental Management, please contact the Office of Planning and Environmental Management at 404-679-5279

Georgia Department of Community Affairs
60 Executive Park South, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30329-2231