The Coosa--the economic engine of Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama
Drinking Water Source
About 925,000 people live within the Upper Coosa River Basin—most of which depend upon the Coosa and its tributaries as their drinking water source. This area includes all, or portions, of the following counties Bartow, Cobb, Chattooga, Cherokee, Dawson, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Gordon, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties in Georgia and Cherokee County in Alabama.
Communities within the basin withdraw about 124 million gallons a day (MGD) from surface and groundwater sources. The largest single municipal user in the Coosa River Basin is Whitfield County/Dalton which withdraws on average about 37 MGD.
Cherokee County (GA) communities withdraw about 19 MGD from the Etowah and Bartow County communities withdraw about 16 MGD. Floyd County residents use about 14 MGD.
However, the single biggest water user in the basin is actually located mostly outside the basin. The Cobb-Marietta Water Authority withdraws about 65 MGD from Lake Allatoona and pumps it out of the Coosa River Basin for use by homes and businesses located in the Chattahoochee River Basin. Each day, the Coosa River Basin loses about 25 MGD through this interbasin transfer.
Of course, the waterways of the Coosa also receive the wastewater from the basin’s residents. These waterways dilute and assimilate about 98 million gallons of treated wastewater each day from the region’s municipal wastewater treatment facilities.
In addition to serving as the drinking water source and wastewater assimilator for hundreds of thousands of residents of Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama, the waterways of the Coosa River Basin also drive local economies.
From the world-renowned carpet and poultry industries of North Georgia to one of the largest fossil-fuel electric generating facilities in the country, the Coosa and its tributaries provide the water needed to create products, jobs and tax revenue.
The following is a summary of the region’s water-dependent industries from which thousands of Coosa River Basin residents derive their sustenance.
Northwest Georgia is home to the City of Dalton, also known as the Carpet Capital of the World. Some 80 percent of the nation’s carpet is produced in the Coosa River Basin counties of Whitfield, Gordon, Catoosa, Murray and Bartow counties. The area’s carpet industry employs about 50,000 people with an annual payroll estimated at $2 billion.
The primary water source for this industry is the Conasauga River. Each day, Dalton Utilities withdraws about 37 million gallons from the Conasauga and other water sources to fuel the water-intensive carpet manufacturing process. During summer months, as much as one-third of the Conasauga’s flow is removed to meet the demands of the area’s carpet industry, other businesses and residences, according the Conasauga River Alliance.
The largest sector of Georgia’s agricultural economy, the poultry industry is centered in North Georgia within the Coosa and Chattahoochee river basins. Three different poultry processing facilities use water from the streams of the Coosa River Basin in their processes. For instance, at the Goldkist Rendering Plant on the Etowah River in Cherokee County, the facility withdraws 14 million gallons a week from the river to convert seven million pounds of chicken parts into pet food and chicken feed.
Statewide, the poultry industry is a $13.5 billion industry with an annual payroll estimated at $3.8 billion. Each year, Georgia’s poultry industry produces 24.7 million pounds of chicken meat and 8.2 million eggs—all made possible by the state’s bountiful water resources.
Located in Western Floyd County, Temple-Inland Paperboard & Packaging Co. is among Floyd County’s largest employers with 500 workers who take home $37 million each year in wages. Each day, Temple-Inland’s Rome facility uses about 26 million gallons of the Coosa to produce 2300 tons of linerboard. This linerboard is used to make corrugated cardboard paper products used to make corrugated cardboard.
The Coosa River Basin is home to two large fossil fuel, power-generating facilities—Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen located on the Etowah River in Bartow County and Plant Hammond located on the Coosa River in Floyd County. In operation since 1971, Plant Bowen is among the largest fossil fuel power-generating facilities in the nation. Each day the Plant uses 40 million gallons of water from the Etowah to generate 3,160 megawatts of electricity each hour. In just 15 seconds, Plant Bowen can produce as much electricity as a typical home uses in a year. The Plant produces 20 percent of the electricity that Georgia Power sells, and employs about 400 people, paying out $20 million in salaries each year.
Plant Hammond, though not as large as Bowen, still produces an impressive amount of electricity—some 840 megawatts per hour—enough to power nine cities the size of Rome, Georgia for one year. Because Plant Hammond lacks cooling towers like the ones at Bowen, the Plant withdraws and releases about 590 million gallons of the Coosa each day. The Plant employs about 200 people, paying $9 million in salaries each year.
The Upper Coosa River Basin is also home to three major dams, Allatoona on the Etowah River, Carters on the Coosawattee and Wiess on the Coosa. Together, these power generating operations can generate 604 megawatts of electricity.
Weiss Dam was completed in 1961 and creates 30,200-acre Weiss Reservoir. Allatoona Dam was completed in 1950 and creates 19,200-acre Allatoona Reservoir. Carters Dam was completed in 1977 and creates 3,220-acre Carters Reservoir.
Tourism and Recreation
The Upper Coosa River Basin’s man-made reservoirs, along with the rivers and streams that form them, create a multi-million dollar economic impact through recreation and tourism revenues. A study of Lake Allatoona, one the Corps of Engineers most visited projects in the country, showed that the lake had a yearly $93 million impact on local economies.
Weiss Lake is known as the Crappie Capital of the World for its tremendous crappie fishery, and the economy of Cherokee County is highly dependent upon the lake. Each year, lake visitors spend about $145 million locally, and the lake generates about 4,100 jobs in the region worth $36 million in wages, according to studies conducted during the 1990s.