Roswell: Planned water plant needed

Current Roswell water plant 80 years old

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ROSWELL, Ga. – When Roswell city officials approved building a new water plant and water storage tank, many in the city questioned why the taxpayers should foot a $15 million bill.

Alice Champagne, Roswell's water resource manager, said a new building was a necessity to meet demand and keep Roswell in the water game.

The Roswell water plant was built in 1933 and could produce 300,000 gallons a day. The plant received updates in 1955 and 1990 to increase capacity to 1.5 million gallons a day.

Champagne said the plant has grown organically and “piecemeal,” making it inefficient in many ways.

“Some of those inefficiencies make it more costly,” she said.

The water plant draws its water from Big Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, and is part of the state's larger, region-wide water plans. Seven workers operate the facility 24-7 year round.

“Everyone looked at the Chattahoochee River like a resource that would be there forever,” said Champagne. “The recent drought and the 'Water Wars' show how necessary it is.”

The facility is big enough to almost fully supply the city's demands, Champagne said.

In the winter, 1.3 million gallons of water a day are needed; in the summer, that number rises to about 2 million gallons a day.

When the city's need outstrips supply, Roswell must purchase any extra water from Fulton County, at a rate of $2.27 per 1,000 gallons, which is a wholesale rate, said Champagne.

Every year, buying the water from the county adds roughly $500,000 to the city's expenses.

Part of the need for an upgrade, Champagne said, was the Roswell plant will sometimes goes offline.

“One of the main problems we have is the intake is old and it's not designed to keep up with flows in the creek,” she said.

When the water level is too low, the plant has to be shut down. When power goes out, it's a similar story.

“We then have to open the valve from county,” she said.

With the addition of a new water plant and the 10 million gallon raw water storage tank, Champagne said the increased capacity will reduce the dependence on the county for water.

“As we put that water into the system, we don't have to open that valve as much to Fulton County. We will have more flexibility once it's upgraded and have water tanks to store raw water directly from the creek.”

The tank will supply a backup for the water plant, should water levels in the creek drop too far.

Costing roughly $15 million, the city would take out a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for 20 years to pay for the plant. The city expects to pay for that entirely with money from the water authority.

Also, the city has built a new well off Willeo Road that taps into an underground aquifer. It is expected to pump about 110,000 gallons a day.

The city has a permit to pump 15 days of the month for 24 hours a day, although Leonard said he expects demand to reduce that number to about eight hours a day.

The new well is an experiment, in a way. The state is watching the well closely, monitoring its effects and viability, said Water Operations Manager Mike Leonard.

The new well off Willeo Road is in testing, and should begin normal operations by the end of the month.

“No one has drilled a well in this area before,” Leonard said.

This article was published in the Revue & News April 3, 2013 edition