Atlanta Drinking Water Quality: Yesterday
The city of Atlanta developed as a railroad hub at the headwaters of two large water basins, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin. Despite this seemingly advantageous location, Atlanta had difficulty meeting its residents’ fresh water needs as it grew. The granite and granite-like geology of the region limits the amount of groundwater resources, forcing Atlanta to rely on limited amounts of surface water. In the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended that the city develop a water storage system.
In 1946, construction began on the Buford Dam north of Atlanta, which created Lake Lanier, to provide water (as well as recreation) for the residents of Atlanta. The city grew so quickly that within 30 years, a second dam was built, creating the Allatoona Lake. No sooner had the artificial lake been filled than the States of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia filed suits citing the environmental and economic impact of the new dam. These lawsuits would be the start of a decades long “water war” about the division of the water available in the two river basins, which has yet to be resolved.