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The City of Atlanta and the surrounding region have grown tremendously in the last 100 years. While growth is essential to maintaining our economic vitality, it can have negative effects on the environment. As the region grows, the demands on existing infrastructure increase, and we are faced with greater challenges in managing wastewater and stormwater, and in protecting our rivers and streams. Clean Water Atlanta (CWA) is a comprehensive, coordinated initiative to improve the region's water quality. CWA encompasses water and wastewater infrastructure and treatment system improvements that are mandated by Consent Decree, as well as watershed improvement projects that extend beyond the requirements.

Clean Water Atlanta represents an unprecedented investment in metro Atlanta's water quality. Upon completion of all CWA tasks, the City will have invested more than $3 billion in Atlanta's environment. Atlanta's residents and ratepapers will boast of one of the best treatment and collection systems in the country.

History of Atlanta’s Sewer System

In its earliest days, Atlanta used open watercourses to capture stormwater and divert it into nearby brooks and creeks. As the city grew, and as sinks, bathtubs, and flush toilets became popular, stormwater sewers became conduits for carrying household wastewater as well. These drains were covered and transformed into combined sewers for the collection of stormwater and sewage. Combined sewers were a common method of sewage dispoal in major cities. Since these systems were not designed to remove waste, and this combined waste was outfalling into the city’s streams, they eventually became a threat to public health.

In the late 1880s, sanitary sewers were built in the outlying areas of the city to receive wastewater generated by urban households. Once the city outgrew this system, the design and construction of sewers were modernized, resulting in great improvement.
The improved sewer system was designed to carry both stormwater and household wastes. This method had the advantage of providing dilution of the wastewater. However, as Atlanta continued its rapid growth, the system was overcome once again, unable to handle the load of the increase in household wastewater and stormwater runoff from increased paved surfaces.

Atlanta’s Sewer System Today

Today Atlanta has both combined and separate sewer systems. The combined area, with Downtown at its center, represents about 15% of Atlanta's total area. There are six Combined Sewer Control Facilities that discharge into the South & Chattahoochee Rivers: Greensferry, North Avenue, Tanyard Creek, Clear Creek, Custer/ Intrenchment Creek, & McDaniel. These CSOs ring the downtown area and overflow into the headwaters of several streams. The area outside this 19-square mile area is separated into sanitary sewer and stormwater pipes, but this system is aging as well, and sanitary sewer overflows occur requently. The City operates four state-of-the-art water reclamation centers (WRCs) that won national awards for performance in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The City also operates 14 pump stations that pump wastewater flows into the sewer system.

Copyright 2003 City of Atlanta, Depart of Watershed Management. All rights reserved
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