WaterWays shares stories about City of Savannah water, from how we invest in infrastructure, to the unique ways our community uses water. Brought to you by the Utility Services Division.

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May 06

Protecting the Source

Posted on May 6, 2019 at 4:00 PM by Saja Aures

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May 5-11 is National Drinking Water Week, an annual event founded by the American Water Works Association. This year's theme, “Protect the Source,” encourages people to learn more about the source of their drinking water and why its protection is critical to our health.

Here at Utility Services, we thought National Drinking Water Week would be a great time for everyone to ponder our local drinking water a bit and ask ourselves a few important questions. Like, where does our drinking water come from? What can we all do to “protect the source” and support the continued safety and sustainability of our high quality, local drinking water?

So where does our drinking water come from? The City of Savannah actually utilizes two sources for drinking water--the Floridan Aquifer and Abercorn Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River. To find out where your water comes from, take a look at our Water Quality Reports online at www.savannahga.gov/waterqualityreport (the 2018 reports will be out in June).

Since the late 1800s, Savannah has relied on the natural underground Floridan Aquifer to provide drinking water to most City residents. And aquifer water is great, it requires relatively little treatment as it’s largely naturally filtered. But we’re not alone in our usage of the aquifer, as nearly 10 million people in communities throughout Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama also are drinking Floridan Aquifer water. 

The aquifer has been heavily used for so long, by so many, that there’s a growing threat of salt water intrusion occurring, which is when water is withdrawn from the aquifer faster than it can be naturally replenished, allowing seawater to travel into the underground reservoir. This brackish water can’t be consumed without going through a costly desalination process. Wells pulling from the aquifer just north of us, in Hilton Head SC, have been shut-down due to saltwater intrusion. More than a threat, saltwater intrusion is becoming a reality.

So what can we do? Conservation is the key to extending the life of the aquifer. You can help by simply using less water at home. There a myriad of ways to save water, from taking shorter showers to installing low-flow toilets to using irrigation timers--or better yet, ditch your water-hogging grass lawn in favor of native, drought-tolerant plants. We’ve got more tips for conserving water on our website

In the future, it’s likely we’ll be turning to Abercorn Creek more to supply our drinking water. Fortunately, the City is prepared, with the Savannah Industrial & Domestic (I&D) Water Treatment Plant, which treats water from Abercorn Creek. The I&D plant currently produces about 35 million gallons of drinking water each day, but the plant has the capacity to produce up to 62.5 million gallons per day. In an upcoming post, we’ll go into greater detail about how I&D operates.

How can we protect the source when it comes to water from Abercorn Creek? As with the aquifer, conservation is always important, but in addition to saving water to protect Abercorn Creek we need to save forests as well. Forestland by rivers act as natural sponges, filtering the water they “drink,” before releasing it back into the air as clean oxygen and water vapor. Trees also prevent soil erosion, keeping sediment out of the water and reducing the risk of flooding. We can help protect our forested watershed by supporting tree planting efforts and by spreading awareness of the importance of trees when it comes to our water quality. 

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Do you have a great idea for our next WaterWays feature? We're always looking for interesting stories about Savannah water and our local community. Email Saja Aures at saures@savannahga.gov to share your tip! 

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