Water & Wastewater Mgt

Focus Area 1: Water and Wastewater Management


Water Supply

The water consumed in the City of Atlanta is taken entirely from the Chattahoochee River. The City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management (DWM) operates the city’s water and wastewater collection, conveyance, and water treatment system.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division licenses DWM to withdraw water from the river up to 180 million gallons per day (MGD). The average withdrawal from 2010 to 2013 was around 84 MGD.

Total water consumed (2011-2013) source: City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management


DWM operates three water treatment systems: The Chattahoochee Water Treatment Plant processes water directly from the Chattahoochee river. The Hemphill Water Treatment plant processes water from a reservoir that is filled from the river. Together these plants produce 75% of Atlanta’s drinking water. The rest of the water for the city is supplied by the Atlanta-Fulton County Water Treatment Plant, which also processes water from the Chattahoochee River.

In 2013-2014, the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant was recognized by the EPA as a top finisher in the Atlanta Better Building Challenge. The plant was recognized for reducing its energy consumption by over 40%.

The Residential sector consumes more than half of the potable water consumed in the city, while the commercial sector consumes more than one-third.

Total water consumption by sectors (2011-2013) source: City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management


The DWM Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan is being updated currently, with an expected 2016 release. The existing action items will be revised, and an emphasis on water efficiency for commercial and industrial water users is likely.

Percentage of water consumption by sectors (2011-2013) source: City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management


Water-Energy Nexus

Distributing and treating water for the City of Atlanta is an energy intensive task. In 2013, 22 percent of city operation emissions were generated to treat and distribute water (116,187 mTCO2e), only surpassed by buildings operations.

The link between water and energy is called the Energy-Water Nexus, in which water and energy are inextricably linked and mutually dependent with each affecting the other’s availability. Water is needed for energy development and generation, and energy is required to supply, use, and treat drinking water and wastewater[1].

DWM is working intensively on two programs to reduce the city’s water consumption:

  • (1) Improving the water distribution system, and
  • (2) Water conservation programs.

Water Distribution

The City of Atlanta water distribution system consists of 2,500 miles of distribution mains and approximately 25,000 hydrants. Improvements in the aging distribution system are taking place in 50 selected areas. The improvements consists of installing new fire hydrants within the existing rights-of-way and constructing more than 100,000 feet of new water mains ranging in diameter from 8 inches to 16 inches, as well as abandoning existing undersized water mains and hydrants. Some mains replaced were 80 years old.

From 2014 up-to-date, 477 main breaks, 360 meter leaks, and 713 hydrant leaks were repaired for an estimated of 520.2 million gallons of water saved per year.

Water Conservation

DWM has many programs in place to educate residents in water conservation issues.

Care & Conserve is a program to assist families and individuals in paying their water and sewer bill during times of financial hardship. The program also includes plumbing repairs and low-water fixtures installments at no cost to tenants. In 2014, the Care & Conserve program assisted 168 families.

The multi-family toilet rebates program consists of trading in old toilets for EPA WaterSense efficient models. In 2014, four multifamily properties participated in the program, and 49 toilets were replaced, $4,900 in rebates applied, 1.2 tons of porcelain recycled and diverted from landfills, and 512,199 gallons of water of city water conserved.

Fix-A-Leak, a program sponsored by EPA WaterSense, consists of a series of campaigns in an effort to encourage Atlantans to repair leaking structures in their homes. DWS staff provides information on conserving water as well as demonstrations on installing low-flow water saving devices and preventing toilet leaks. The program also provides free water-saver kits complete with faucet aerators, showerheads, leak detection tablets, and other conservation-oriented materials. The kits are available to residents at all City of Atlanta fire stations.

The Atlanta Better Building Challenges is a US Department of Energy sponsored voluntary program in which participants compromise to reduce 20 percent of their energy and water consumption by 2020. By 2013, participants reduced the amount of water they consumed by 103 million gallons.

Water Reclamation and Treatment

DWM handles approximately 2,000 miles of sanitary and combined sewers, six combined sewers overflow treatment plants, four water reclamation centers, and sixteen pump stations. The water reclamation centers treat more than 170 million gallons of wastewater per day. The high quality water is discharged into the Chattahoochee River.

Clean Water Atlanta is a comprehensive, multi-program initiative to improve water quality in Atlanta through capital construction programs and enhanced operation of the City’s drinking and wastewater systems. The City adopted an aggressive 10 year capital improvement program in 1993, spending more than 1 billion on wastewater and sewer improvements to the drinking water system.

Clean Water Atlanta expands this program to include all projects required to comply with two federal consent decrees and a state consent order, improve water quality throughout metro Atlanta, secure drinking water facilities in accordance with national homeland security guidelines and provide holistic management of the City’s resource operation.

Through the programs associated with Clean Water Atlanta, the City of Atlanta will establish, operate and maintain state-of-the-art water resource and infrastructure systems. Clean Water Atlanta will also enable the City to meet water quality requirements in the near and distant future.

The City of Atlanta operates four Water Reclamation Centers (WRCs): R.M. Clayton, Utoy Creek, South River, and Intrenchment Creek. These facilities are primarily responsible for treating wastewater within the City.

Atlanta began a massive program of improvements to its WRCs in 1995, to comply with state regulations and legislative mandates. These improvements were designed to reduce phosphorus concentrations in the treated wastewater being discharged from the facilities and allow each WRC to fully treat wastewater from its own service area. The Consent Decree imposed additional treatment capacity and more stringent treatment limits on the City’s WRCs. Supplementing compliance with these requirements will be the implementation of enhanced training and management procedures to operate these facilities more effectively. These measures are intended to improve the water quality in downstream receiving water bodies, principally the Chattahoochee River, by improving the water quality of the effluent discharged from the WRC.

DWM has recently updated the Post-Development Stormwater Management Ordinance to promote the use of Green Infrastructure on new and redevelopment projects in the City. Green infrastructure uses natural hydrologic features to manage water and provide environmental and community benefits. On development sites, Green Infrastructure includes engineered practices that are designed to mimic natural hydrology by infiltrating stormwater runoff into the ground, evapotranspiration (uptake of water by plants) in landscaped areas, or capturing and reusing the runoff through rainwater harvesting techniques.

The implementation of these measures has resulted in a decline in water consumption per capita as shown in the Figure below. Based on the trends shown, water consumption per capita between 2014 and 2020 is expected to be flat, representing savings of 10.62 million gallons per day (MGD) compared to 2009 consumption. These savings in water consumption imply indirect reductions in emissions in approximately 602,589 mTCO2e.


Source: Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan, 2009, Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District

Objectives Reduction Potential
Increase efficiency in the use of water and wastewater treatment by 20% from 2009 baseline by 2020 high-impact
Strategies Supporting Actions Supports Adaptation Community/Government Reduction Potential
WW1-Optimize water distribution systems A. Remediate water pipe leaks by 50% to reduce pumping

B. Upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems at water and wastewater facilities

Y Both high-impact
WW2-Reduce water consumption per capita Promote water conservation measures specified by the Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan Y Both high-impact
WW 1-Optimize water distribution systems high-impact
One of the priorities of the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management (DWM) is to improve operational efficiencies to deliver the highest level of service to customers in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. The Office of Linear Infrastructure Operations is responsible for the management, operations and maintenance of more than 2,500 miles of drinking water infrastructure, and more than 1,500 miles of sanitary and combined sewers.
WW-1A Remediate water pipe leaks by 50% to reduce pumping Status
The City of Atlanta is committed to improving its aged drinking water infrastructure by finding leaks and repairing or replacing those pipes. The Mayor’s goal is to reduce system water loss from leakage by 50% (http://www.mydropcounts.org/index.php/whos-conserving/interactive-map/). moderate
WW-1B Upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems at water and wastewater facilities Status
Twenty-two percent of the electricity consumed by municipal operations is used for wastewater treatment. As such, the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, retrofitted two water treatment plants and a water reclamation plant, replacing more than 4,300 inefficient fixtures with high-efficiency fluorescent and LED fixtures, saving the city more than $400,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs. Additionally, the Hemphill water treatment plant was recognized as one of the nation’s most energy-efficient by reducing energy usage by 40% and preventing more than 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts at the Hemphill plant can be replicated in other facilities to reduce the amount of energy used to treat water facilities.


WW 2-Reduce 20% of water consumption per capita by 2020 high-impact
The City of Atlanta Water Supply and Water Conservation Management Plan is being updated currently with an expected release in 2016. The existing action items are being revised and most likely will include an emphasis on water efficiency for commercial and industrial water users.
WW-2A Reduce Consumption Status
The City is also focused on reducing water demand in one of the largest consumer groups, Atlanta’s multifamily residential communities. This sector currently uses approximately 20% of Atlanta’s daily production. Through Atlanta’s new multifamily toilet rebate program older water wasting fixtures are being replaced by WaterSense toilets with the potential for saving up to 3 million gallons of water a day. The continuation of programs, such as Fix-A-Leak, is important to educate residents on water conservation issues.

The second consumer group is the commercial sector. The new Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance requires benchmark of existing commercial and industrial buildings larger than 25,000 sqft to achieve a 20% reduction in water use by 2020.


[1] www.gao.gov

Questions? e-mail Jairo H Garcia, Sustainability Management Analyst at jhgarcia@AtlantaGa.Gov