Roswell drilling to expand water supply

Digging 2 new wells

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ROSWELL, Ga. – While Roswell residents will likely not notice any change in their water, the city is expanding capacity by adding two new wells to its system.

Roswell Director of Public Works Stuart Moring said Roswell currently provides about 1.2 million gallons of water per day to roughly 5,600 customers, mostly in West Roswell. The new wells will provide a 25 percent increase, or about 350,000 gallons per day.

A water line will need to be built along Willeo Road between Ga. 120 and Azalea Road to connect the larger well behind the Inverness neighborhood to the smaller well across the street, where a water treatment building will be built around the wellhead.

The wells are expected to come online by the end of the year.

Moring said the wells tap into an artesian aquifer. While the city does not know how much water the aquifer contains, they do not expect to pump full-time. The water in this aquifer likely comes from the Appalachian Mountains in the north and provides a secondary source of water for the city.

As the water pumps operate, care will be taken to watch how quickly the water levels in this aquifer drop – a quick drop would mean the aquifer is not very big.

“We expect to pump about 15 days at a time and let [the well] recharge,” he said. “But we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to pump more than 50 percent of the time.”

The location at Willeo and Ga. 120 was chosen by surveyors as a site for a possible well both because it had high chances of hitting water and because the city already owns the property and it is vacant.

The impetus for the city to drill for well water came during the severe drought several years ago that strained state water resources. Gov. Sonny Perdue urged governments to seek alternate water sources.

“When the drought was really going in 2008, Gov. Perdue wanted to promote alternative water supplies, including using ground water,” Moring said. “We don’t know exactly where it comes from. We know we are not taking away from the flow of the Chattahoochee River to supply customers.”

He added the new wells reduce the city’s reliance on water from the river and Lake Lanier. The city’s major source of water is Big Creek, which feeds into the Chattahoochee.

While most Roswell residents get their water from Fulton County, a large percentage of those in West Roswell are on city taps. When the need for water outstrips its ability to supply, usually in the summer months, Moring said the city pays Fulton County for that extra water to the tune of about $2.25 per thousand gallons. By pumping more of its own water, the city could provide the water for about 50 cents per thousand gallons.

Despite these savings, independent consultants Gresham Smith and Partners performed a study in 2010 on the financial viability of Roswell’s water supply. They determined that an increase of fees is necessary if Roswell wants to at least break even in future years.

“A policy of annual 2.5 to 3.0 percent annual adjustments provides a positive net income necessary to fund needed capital and improvements to sustain the system, improve reliability and provide for growth,” the report says.

Moring said the increases in cost to users are necessary to keep the system running, and that were it not for the new wells, the city would be forced to dip into Fulton County more as usage increases. Ultimately, that will cost ratepayers more. The new wells help mitigate that. Moring said a large part of the costs comes from inflation and employee costs.

This report projects revenue and expenses into 2060.

“This is part of a general strategy to broaden our capability,” Moring said. “[The wells are] a good alternative.”

“This is the only reasonable course of action, if we want to stay in the water business,” said Mayor Jere Wood.

“If we get out of the water business, we are at the mercy of other folks, and my goal is to never be at the mercy of Fulton County when I don’t have to,” he said.