LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga., (March 15, 2011) – The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners approved two resolutions today urging the U.S. Congress to clarify the use of Lake Lanier for public water supply and recreational purposes and to raise the lake’s full pool elevation.
Since 1973, Gwinnett County has had Army Corps of Engineers’ authorization to withdraw water and use storage space for public water supply in Lake Lanier under the Water Supply Act. However, a 2009 U.S. District Court ruling that water supply is not an authorized use of Lanier jeopardizes that authorization.
Gwinnett produces enough water to supply 224,000 households and 14,000 businesses and to provide fire protection for more than 800,000 residents. Gwinnett County has proven itself to be a good steward of its water supply, according to Lynn Smarr, water resources acting director. Smarr said that despite an increase in population, less water is used now compared to 2007 when conservation efforts were first put in place in response to drought conditions. In addition, the County has invested billions of dollars in state-of-the-art water production and wastewater treatment facilities. One of these facilities, a nine-mile pipeline, is permitted to return up to 40 million gallons of reclaimed water daily to its source in Lake Lanier. This water is cleaner when it returns to the lake than when it was taken out.
Raising the elevation of Lake Lanier by two feet, to 1,073 feet above sea level, would increase the available water supply by more than 25 billion gallons and would avoid the cost of building a new reservoir for the region’s growing population. This increased supply would provide an additional storage buffer in times of drought and could be used to minimize downstream impacts of low flows in the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers, benefiting both Alabama and Florida.
“There is no reasonable alternative water supply available to Gwinnett County, and the cost per gallon of usable water gained from raising the elevation is one-tenth the cost of building a reservoir,” said District 4 Commissioner John Heard. “The most cost-effective and time-sensitive solution to this regional issue is to use the resources we already have in place.”