Paulding County is focused on managing its aging infrastructure to minimize water loss by identifying problem areas where there are leaking pipes and making repairs. To ensure the County is focused on the right assets, Paulding County performs an annual water audit to track progress towards reducing water loss; and to date, progress has been positive. Every year, Paulding County along with all other large Georgia water systems take part in a Water Loss Audit. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) published the results of the 2011 audit in January of 2013.
During the audit process an Infrastructure Leakage Index (ILI) is developed for each system. This ILI is a detailed operational key performance indicator for real water losses in a system. Typical ranges for the ILI in Georgia are 1 to 6, and it is desired to try to achieve an ILI as close to 1 as possible. Paulding County had an ILI Rating of 1.65 in 2011, which put it in the most desired range of 1 to 3. Audits for 2012 and 2013 have not yet been authenticated by EPD, however the 2013 ILI that was calculated and submitted to the state for Paulding County was 1.16. While no utility can expect a 0% water loss, Paulding County is working towards additional reductions.
Funding for the development of the RCR and associated infrastructure will be obtained through a combination of low interest loans provided by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), funding through the State Direct Investment (SDI) program and revenue bonds. Revenue from water sold to Paulding County water customers will be used to repay these loans; there will be no increase in tax dollars paid. The RCR is one of four new reservoir projects being funded by GEFA’s Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP). Although GEFA has provided funding, the state will not have control over project development, implementation, or operation. Kevin Clark, Director of GEFA commented, “These… projects are the best, most strategic investments the state can make at this time to secure water supply in the right places and to tackle some of Georgia’s most significant water supply challenges.” The financial analysis Paulding County had prepared to identify the most fiscally responsible approach to developing the RCR, indicates that water rates for customers will increase. However, once constructed, the stabilized water supply will benefit customers by establishing lower rates long term, making building the RCR a fiscally prudent long term investment decision.
During construction, there may be temporary disruption of roads in the surrounding areas that could cause traffic and noise. All County staff and contractors will be required to adhere to site specific safety plans and be prepared to respond to questions from the public.
The RCR includes a dam that creates the reservoir. As part of the preliminary design, an extensive geotechnical investigation took place. This investigation determined the site specific subsurface conditions at the dam site that allows for a design approach that addresses site specific geological constraints. The design incorporates internal controls that help strengthen the dam. These controls include excavating to rock and injecting a concrete grout curtain down 80 feet below the bottom of the dam, and also installing a concrete cut off wall deep within the interior of the earthen dam to control seepage and strengthen the structure. The RCR dam will be of similar design but much lower in height than the Carters Dam located West of Ellijay. The Carters Dam is the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi and was constructed in the 1970s.
We have heard that the Richland Creek Reservoir has a gas pipeline crossing it. Does this create a risk to the water supply?
As is the case all throughout Georgia and the southeast, easements for Colonial Pipeline and for Atlanta Gas and Light (AGL) pass through the lower west corner of the property on which the reservoir is being constructed. The AGL pipeline contains compressed gas (will not spread via water) vs. liquefied petroleum (will spread via water) and crosses several of the reservoir tributary streams, all of which are crossings less than 150-ft in length. This is common, and in the metro Atlanta Region there are hundreds of similar stream crossings by natural gas and petroleum pipelines. AGL and Colonial Pipeline have monitoring, testing and inspection procedures to identify any concerns and reduce the potential of a leak happening.
Because of presence of this pipeline, during construction, Paulding County is working with AGL to maintain the integrity of the pipelines. Post construction, Paulding County will implement a monitoring program that will detect any potential pipeline issue. If a leak did occur and was not detected, the treatment process at the Water Treatment Plant uses advanced technologies including chlorine dioxide, dissolved air flotation, dual media filtration, disinfection, and granular activated carbon, which provide multibarrier protection. All drinking water is subject to strict State and Federal monitoring requirements to ensure that water quality meets these standards. Water quality monitoring and testing is standard practice and done throughout the water treatment process.
What do others counties around Paulding do for water and have any of these sources been considered as an alternative?
Counties throughout the Atlanta Region have a variety of sources of water supply. Paulding County is somewhat unique in not having it’s own permitted water supply source and being completely dependent upon an wholesale supplier located within another geographical County for water. This graphic shows permitted drinking water sources for the counties in the vicinity of Paulding County. As part of the 404 Permit Application process a detailed analysis of water supply alternatives was developed that considered the feasibility for using these sources. The analysis determined that with the exception of the current supplier (CCMWA) that “none of the neighboring counties have surplus water resources that could play a role in satisfying Paulding’s growing population and its long-term need for water supply.” Paulding will have two withdrawals and permits one located on the Etowah River within Bartow County; Paulding County will have a second withdrawal and permit from the RCR. Paulding will have ownership and control of the RCR system.
The RCR will help to protect the environment, and a wide variety of green and eco-friendly measures were taken during the program development. The intake on the Etowah River will be controlled to withdraw water during periods of higher river flow such as wet periods and during periods of controlled power generation releases from Lake Allatoona. By doing so, the RCR will not negatively impact in-stream flow requirements during times of heavy usage or drought. The Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has strict low flow protection requirements in place to protect downstream users and wildlife in the Etowah River; Paulding County will be monitoring conditions on a daily basis to adhere to these requirements. Further, the EPD has strict regulations in place to ensure proper water quality. Paulding County also performed extensive modeling to assess potential impacts to fish habitat (such as the federally threatened Cherokee darter) as part of applying for the RCR 404 Permit. Modeling results indicated that there will be minimal to no impact on fish species. However, despite these results, Paulding County Water Services is building the river intake to include specialty low impact raw water screens that have very small openings and very low entrance velocities (on the order of 0.5 ft/sec) so that fish and other wildlife are not impacted by the presence of the screens.
This design also prevents debris from entering into the screen or clogging on the screen surface. Also see the May 2015 News Release for information on the work by the Paulding County Water System to protect the northern long-eared bats known to inhabit the region. Erosion and sediment control design and installation of the appropriate measures by the contractors has also been a strong focus in close coordination with EPD, in order to help limit potential impacts of construction on Richland Creek and downstream users. The design of the dam facilities also includes measures to maintain minimum required flows and optimal temperature ranges in Richland Creek downstream of the dam throughout the year, along with the installation of the USGS monitoring station to provide real time monitoring of the Richland Creek conditions. In addition, construction activities were limited during the spawning period of the Cherokee darter, and Paulding County will be performing biological monitoring in Richland Creek during and after construction in order to monitor the health of Richland Creek.
Find out about the reservoir and the water supply program components here.
As part of the 404 application process it is a requirement to evaluate potential alternative sources of water supply. Paulding County Water System consultants prepared an “Analysis of Water Supply Alternatives” that included looking at water conservation, wastewater reclamation and reuse, groundwater supply, purchase of water from other regional sources, increased purchase from the existing source (Cobb-County Marietta Water Authority), and a constructed reservoir. This group of alternatives was evaluated by professional engineers that applied hydrologic and engineering criteria in order select an alternative that would support long-term demands and have the lowest impact to the aquatic ecosystem. The RCR was determined to be the only alternative practicable of supporting long-term County demands.
Find out about the program here.
A drinking water reservoir is very different than a pond or lake in a subdivision. These smaller impoundments are typically permitted by the State but owned and maintained by landowners. The reservoir dam will be owned and operated by the Paulding County Water System; properly maintaining the dam is a requirement of the State issued permit to operate the facility. As part of the permitting process it is required to develop an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Manual for the reservoir that states the specific requirements for maintaining the dam at all times. For example, no trees are allowed to develop on the face of the dam and regular dam inspections must take place. Maintaining the dam per the required stipulations of the O&M Manual will take place continuously by the Paulding County Water System staff operating the new RCR infrastructure.
Passive recreation activities such as walking, canoeing, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, birding, photography and other non-motorized activities will be allowed in designated areas of the RCR. Gas-powered engines will be prohibited per state regulations, as the RCR is intended as a drinking water supply and is required to be protected from contaminants. Once constructed, the land on which the RCR and additional infrastructure is located will add acreage of protected greenspace to the Counties existing inventory.