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.