Why One Suburban Atlanta County Has No Drought Problem


Short explanation: Clayton County wastewater and storm water runoff are diverted to a series of man-made, wetland ponds and channels that eventually feed two small reservoirs. Afterward, naturally polished wastewater can be withdrawn for human consumption via the existing potable water treatment and distribution system.

Way better than desalination or pipes from the Great Lakes or the other pointless punditry and prayer sessions: it works; and is apparently quite cost effective. Other drought-impacted municipalities from around the world are modeling their systems after the one in Clayton County Georgia. At last: design emerges as a preeminent force in drought adaptation. Why did it take so long for a positive local example to surface?

Other advantages besides having a secure water source: reportedly the County electric bill has been cut by 60% due to the more natural, less engineered approach to treatment. Green space has been preserved. Wildlife has habitat.

The drawbacks: less developable land for suburban expansion and fewer lucrative design and construction contracts for the traditional civil works interests. What a shame.

Tucked behind the empty car washes and waterless fountains of Clayton County is a place where water gurgles down rocks, and herons lounge in lush wetlands.
It's a place where fishermen don't see dry banks, and residents don't have to worry about dry faucets...Clayton County officials say their area is the only one in Metro Atlanta not struggling with severe drought...

Drought fears struck Clayton more than 20 years ago, and county officials started to think ahead. The result: an elaborate series of 21 man-made wetlands and reservoirs that allows the county to collect 10 million gallons of wastewater a day and eventually convert it to drinking water...

Construction of the wetlands has cost Clayton about $15 million in bond money. The county will spend $10 million on the fourth phase, but that will come from water and sewer fees, which have been increased for next year.

The wetlands also have reduced the water authority's monthly electric bill by 60 percent. Officials say they will save another $25,000 on monthly electric costs once the fourth wetland phase is finished.

"It's all natural. Nothing is pushing the water, so there's no power," Thomas said. "It all flows from gravity..."

"Everyone is amazed our reservoirs are full. It doesn't look like Lake Lanier," Thomas said. "It's our little hidden secret."

TreeHugger highly recommends reading the entire Atlanta Journal-Constitution article.

Via::Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Clayton County creates an oasis. Drought? What drought? They've got plenty of water" Image credit::Joey Ivansco/AJC

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