Former Columbus Water Works President Billy Turner has been tapped to be the founding director of Troy University’s planned Center for Water Resource Economics to be housed in the university’s new Phenix City riverfront campus.
One of several “Centers for Excellence” the university is launching this year, the Water Resource Center will focus on the economic impact of water in this region as well as issues surrounding shared water.
Turner was formally presented as the director at a reception Wednesday night at the Chattahoochee Riverclub, overlooking the river that has been central to Turner’s professional life for the last quarter century.
“Our river is the basis for civilization here, and it has served us well,” Turner said. “However, today we must focus on the water that will serve us in the future. That’s not an easy proposition when more and more actions critical to governments, private land owners and environmental interests lay claim to the same water.”
Turner said he wants the center to be a premier institution of its kind in this part of the country.
“The vision that we have is that the Center for Water Resource Economics will be becoming the predominant institution in the region dedicated to the use of economic tools in addressing water resource issues and in archiving important water resource information,” Turner said.
Judson Edwards, dean of Troy’s Sorrell College of Business and one of the first proponents of the center, said the center will focus on the Appalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee basin, but its work will go beyond those boundaries.
“This new center is going to have a great opportunity to make a difference in terms of not just what’s happening on the ACF system here, but across the Southeast,” Edwards said.
Turner led the Columbus Water Works for 20 years, until his retirement in 2009. Since retiring, Turner has done consulting and volunteer work for Chattahoochee River Restoration Project and ACF Stakeholders Inc., an organization dedicated to the development of a sustainable water management plan for the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint Rivers.
He said he hopes the experience he has gained in a long career will serve him in helping to establish the center.
“It is clear that water will be the key future economic development factor in both Alabama and Georgia for future generations,” Turner said. “For that reason, we believe it is the perfect time to bring the Center for Water Resource Economics into existence here in our region.”