Water Supply in Our Region
The Metro Water District relies almost entirely on surface water to meet the needs of the region. Access to groundwater is negligible, so we must rely on our small rivers and streams for water supply and capture and store rainfall in reservoirs to provide relief in times of drought. Our water story is unique, which is why water management is critical.
Small Rivers at the Headwaters
Unlike most large cities that were built around access to water, Atlanta began as a transportation hub. It has the highest elevation of all major cities east of the Mississippi River. The region is located at the headwaters of six major river basins and three river systems, which represent the smallest watershed providing a major portion of water supply for any metropolitan area in the country.
Negligible Access to Groundwater
The unique geology of metro Atlanta prevents access to water from below the surface. Stone Mountain is the tip of a thick layer of granite that extends under a large part of our region, significantly limiting the amount of water that comes from the ground. In fact, groundwater makes up only 1% of Atlanta’s total water supply.
Reliance on Reservoirs
Reservoirs provide the principal way to ensure that the region has water year-round, even during times of drought. There are more than 20 small water supply reservoirs located in various parts of the region. Two large reservoirs – Lake Lanier and Allatoona Lake – are major sources of supply for the region. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed metro Atlanta in the 1950s and built those large reservoirs on the two best sites. In addition to supplying drinking water, Lake Lanier and Allatoona Lake provide flood control, hydroelectric power generation, recreation and fish and wildlife management.
Water supply is not just where our water comes from, but also how it gets from those sources to our homes and businesses. The reliability of clean, safe water every time you turn on the faucet is the result of a sophisticated and technologically advanced network of systems that require constant vigilance and investment. Water management includes supply, treatment, distribution, interconnections and the interaction of these infrastructure systems with the natural systems.
In the Metro Water District, more than 50 individual water providers work together to protect this valuable resource. Since the creation of the Metro Water District in 2001, the region has grown by more than 1.3 million people. During this same period, water use dropped by 10%. Despite impressive conservation results and plans for further per capita reduction, the region’s projected economic growth will increase demand. Maintaining the efficiency of our water supply network is important for future needs. In order to keep up with demand, the Metro Water District works with local, regional and state governments, as well as water utilities and a host of stakeholders to promote some of the most aggressive water supply and conservation efforts in the country.