To meet the county’s future water supply needs, the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (WSA) is moving forward by evaluating the likelihood of expanding the Dog River Reservoir.
“This is one of the biggest projects that will happen in Douglas County for a while,” said Gil Shearouse, executive director of the WSA.
The current Dog River Reservoir was constructed from 1990 to 1992 at a cost of $7.7 million, and at the time was the largest water improvement project undertaken in Douglas County, taking seven years from conception to completion.
In anticipation for the required permits to be obtained, the WSA has begun the process of determining the impact of a proposed future expansion on all of the properties that adjoin the existing reservoir, which they reported in a letter sent out to property owners Dec. 14.
The next step in the process is to move forward with studies with the Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the Clean Water Act and ready a detailed application for submission.
Preliminary studies have determined that there are 39 parcels what would be impacted by the expansion.
“We are looking at the impact of a new reservoir versus expansion of the existing reservoir,” Shearouse said. “The impact to property owners is greater with a new reservoir in property and costs.”
The cost of expanding the current reservoir would run around $92 million, said Shearouse. This compares with an anticipated $163 million cost of building a new reservoir.
The environmental impact of streams and wetlands must be offset with mitigation, he said. A new reservoir would cost $61 million in mitigation as opposed to $8.5 million by expanding the current Dog River Reservoir.
“As environmental stewards,” he said. “we are pursuing the least in cost and impact. An expanded reservoir is the preferred alternative.”
Shearouse said that studies show this is the best option in terms of water/waste water for the community.
Expanding the reservoir is far from an immediate task. The 404 Permit (Clean Water Act) typically takes three years for approval, Shearouse said. Some parts of the application can take anywhere from 10-15 years.
Prior to submitting the application, the WSA will hold a town hall meeting covering the Dog River reservoir expansion with the property owners and the community.
“Planning is important for our organization,” he said, “making sure we have an adequate water supply for our customers.”
In 2012, the WSA engaged a consultant to complete a master plan. Population projections by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) in 2016 project that by 2026, Douglas County will have a population of 206,000 residents.
Based on 50-year planning, this translates into water usage of 23 million gallons of per day.
“Our residents are doing a fine job in using resources wisely,” said Shearouse. “We have one of the lowest per capita consumptions in the area.”
The state average for consumption is 80-90 gallons or water per person/per day. Douglas County consumption is 55 gallons of water per person/per day.
"What are we doing with the rest of our resources," Shearouse asked.
"Reuse of waste water. Re-using every drop of water to good purposes. But we will need an additional supply of storage in the future," he said.
Population trends have gone up while per capita consumption has gone down, with the influx of water conservation efforts. The WSA is seeing 1.5 percent growth, based on a 50-year population study.
This is due to the WSA’s effort in resource management, community engagement and environmental stewardship, he said.
Currently, the WSA has the capacity to produce 23 million gallons of water per day.
Currently, the Dog River Reservoir is 256 acres and holds 1.9 billion gallons of water. Upon the proposed expansion, the reservoir would increase to 332.36 acres and would hold 6.5 billion gallons of water.
Due to an increase in rainfall, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) released Douglas County from the Level 2 drought designation last September. However, Douglas County is still in the Level 1 Drought Response. Douglas was one of more than 55 counties in Georgia where a Level 2 Drought Response was first declared in November 2016 when the county was more than 20-inches below normal rainfall.
The 2007 drought was so significant, it caused the county’s water suppliers to go back and evaluate the water supply, said Shearouse. The 2007 drought is considered one of the worst Georgia droughts experienced in 100 years. Since 2007, the county has had 16 drought conditions.
“Douglasville-Douglas County WSA’s plan to raise the level of the Dog River Reservoir is wise water planning,” said Katherine Zitsch, director of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. “It expands the system’s water supply so that the city and county can better weather droughts, while limiting the environmental impacts of new supply.”