By Tracy Robillard, Corporate Communications Office
Congress added water supply as an
authorized purpose of lakes Hartwell,
Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond
under the Water Supply Act of 1958.
This legislation gave communities throughout the
Savannah River Basin the option to receive water
supply allocations from the reservoirs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District
has 13 water storage contracts at the three reservoirs.
Essentially, these contracts give the purchaser the right
to a certain portion of water storage space within the
reservoir, according to Melissa Wolf, Corps natural
"We don't sell the water, only the space for storing the
water within the reservoir," Wolf said.
To determine the required storage space, Corps water
managers calculate a "dependable yield" value, which
essentially means that X amount of space within the
reservoir will yield Y amount of water, even during the
worst-case drought of record, Wolf said.
Cities that get their drinking water from the reservoirs
include McCormick, S.C.; and Lavonia, Elberton;
Washington, Lincolnton, and Thomson, Ga. Other
users are Hart County and Columbia County, Ga., the
South Carolina Public Service Authority, the Anderson
Regional Joint Water System, and the Savannah Valley
Many other communities get drinking water from
the Savannah River downstream of the Thurmond
Dam, including two major metropolitan Georgia cities
(Augusta and Savannah) as well as Beaufort and Hilton
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division
(EPD) and the South Carolina Department of Health and
Environmental Control (DHEC) manage permitting for
all water withdrawals in the basin, including industrial,
municipal, and agricultural uses.
Georgia EPD has permitted 17 public drinking
water systems that use surface water sources from
the Savannah River Basin, according to Ted Jackson,
program manager for EPD's drinking water program.
These permits supply drinking water to an estimated
415,000 Georgia citizens, Jackson said.
On the other side of the river, South Carolina DHEC
has issued nine permits for surface water withdrawals
serving a total population of 790,860, according to Carol Roberts, DHEC watershed manager for the Savannah
and Salkehatchie rivers.
One of many industrial users of the Savannah River Basin is Plant Vogtle, a nuclear power facility in Burke County, Ga. Pictured here is
construction on units 3 and 4 in the foreground with units 1 and 2 in the background. Photo by Georgia Power, August 2012.
In total, the Savannah River Basin supplies drinking
water to more than 1.2 million people in Georgia and
"Protecting all our water resourcesthe streams,
rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and our underground aquifers
just makes common sense," Jackson said. "It makes sense
that we all want clean water to drink to support our
health… to continue to support our economy… and to be
good stewards of the environment that supports all life."
Water Quality and the Clean Water Act
Water quality means ensuring water in the basin
meets state environmental standards for dissolved
oxygen, salinity, pH levels, and other factors.
"The water quality standards are the foundation of
water quality protection programs in the state," Roberts
said. "The standards help protect freshwater uses such
as public water supply, recreation, fishing, aquatic life,
industrial, and navigational purposes."
Industry use of the river plays a major role in water
quality. Municipalities and industries throughout the
basin discharge treated waste water into the river
in compliance with state
permitting requirements. This
requires a continuous flow
of water from the reservoirs
to assimilate or dilute the
wastewater. This process
becomes even more critical
during drought and the
summer months when water
temperatures rise and dissolved
oxygen levels drop.
Georgia and South Carolina
base their permitting rules
on the established minimum
outflows in the Corps of
Engineers' drought plan. This
helps ensure clean water for all
basin users in both states.
The Savannah River Basin supplies drinking water to more than 1.2 million people in two states, including
two major metropolitan citiesAugusta and Savannah, Ga. USACE graphic by George Jumara.
The Clean Water Act is the
basic federal law designed
to control water pollution in
U.S. waters. It prohibits the
discharge of any pollutant into
U.S. waters unless permitted
under the National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System
Georgia EPD currently has 171 active NPEDS permits
for the discharge of wastewater into the basin, Jackson
said. South Carolina DHEC has 48, Roberts said.
According to a 2001 report from Georgia EPD,
some of the major industrial and federal wastewater
treatment users in the basin include Georgia Power's
nuclear power facility Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Ga.;
International Paper Company in Richmond County, Ga.;
Kemira Pigments, Inc. (an inorganic chemicals company)
in Chatham County, Ga.; Georgia Power formerly known
as Savannah Electric and Power Company (a steam
electric facility) in Effingham County, Ga.; Union Camp
Corporation (pulp and paper mill) in Chatham County,
Ga.; and Stone Container Corporation (pulp and paper
mill) in Chatham County, Ga. Other users include the
Department of Energy Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.
"Decades of human development along the river,
including industrial developments, have changed the
natural landscape of the river," Wolf said. "Therefore,
it's critical for the Corps to coordinate with the state and
federal natural resource agencies to maintain the longterm
health of the river and its delicate ecosystems."