Should Columbus Sell Water to Metro-Atlanta?

WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

Let’s face it,  Lakes Lanier and Alatoona  are not able to supply enough water for  Metro-Atlanta to maintain its rate of growth.  Should it be able to take the water from the rivers below Atlanta?  I’ll tell you what retired Columbus Water Works Executive Director Billy Turner says about that,  but first,  a look at what brought on the conversation. 

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Sam Olens is proactive in dealing with the water shortage problem in the Atlanta area,  and is concerned about cities downstream like Columbus.   That’s what he told Rotarians as he talked about a number of issues that affect both Cobb and Muscogee Counties.  He is a major player on the Metro North Georgia Water Planning Council.  He says he may run for governor if the state doesn’t properly address the problem,  as well as others like transportation, which he considers critical.

He said he knew that people in Columbus are not happy with the way the Atlanta area has not been responsible in returning clean water to the Chattahoochee,  but he pointed out Cobb County has spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its water treatment system,  and that Gwinette County has the best sewage treatment plant in the state.

He was quite proud of Cobb County’s toilet rebate program.  The county pays rebates of $100 to people who convert their old 8-gallon to  1.28-gallon toilets.  Toilets are the single largest user of water in a household, using 45 percent.  He is big on water conservation as an answer to the water problem.

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner doesn’t think conservation,  while helpful, can come any where near solving the problem.   He offered to meet with Chairman Olensand discuss his ideas later.  Olens said he would like that.

Later, Billy told me while Cobb County has made great strides in improving its sewage treatment facilities,  it is just one county in the 16-county Metro Atlanta area.  He said the big problem downstream isn’t how much water Metro-Atlanta is taking out of the watersheds,  it’s how much it puts back in.  He said there are a million septic tanks in the area.  Not only do they return water extremely slowly to the streams,  under draught conditions, he maintains, the water is lost because of evaporation and hard, dry soil.  Sewer systems with water treatment plants are the answer to that,  but it is a very expensive answer that doesn’t interest a lot of developers.

Another big problem is inter-basin transfer.  It’s already happens as some Metro-Atlanta areas take water out of one water shed and return it to another.  In other words, water taken from the Chattahoochee can be returned to another river.

As far as the fact that Metro-Atlanta simply can’t continue its growth rate depending on its current water supply, Turner says it’s going to have to  get it from other places than Lake Lanier and Lake Alatoona.  Where?  Well, how about Columbus?  We have plenty of water,  even during draughts.  Turner says he wouldn’t object to selling water to Metro-Atlanta,  if  “they pay enough for it.”

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One Response to “Should Columbus Sell Water to Metro-Atlanta?”

  1. Richard Says:

    As I recall, the LaGrange newspaper had an item awhile back about Newnan planning to use West Point Lake as a water source. And I think the issue was about how Newnan did NOT want to pay $$ for it.

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