Atlanta Department of Watershed Management
In September 2002, the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management (DWM) was formed to manage the City of Atlanta’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. Previously, Atlanta’s wastewater and drinking water systems were significantly underfunded and under‐maintained for decades.
Since 2002, DWM has made significant infrastructure and financing improvements to the systems, including successful rate increases, a dedicated municipal sales tax, bond issues, improved budgeting processes and effective cost controls. Since 2004, DWM has experienced a 97 percent reduction in sewer spill volumes and a 62 percent reduction in spill events. The number of boil water advisories decreased from nine in 2002 to an average of only one per year in 2017, 1949 water leaks were repaired from January 1, 2017 to September 2017. Revenue collections rose from approximately 90 percent to over 98 percent. Less than 2.5 percent of City of Atlanta monthly water bills are estimated, and recent audits have revealed that water meters throughout the City are functioning properly.
Improvements to overall watershed health can be attributed to the work that DWM does in implementing green infrastructure, sewer capacity relief projects, flood retention ponds, and other stormwater management measures.
The City of Atlanta recognizes that customers may face difficulty in paying for essential services like water. Thus, financial assistance is offered by the Care and Conserve program, which provides assistance with plumbing repairs and the installation of water efficiency devices. DWM partners with corporate sponsors in order to fund this impactful initiative.
DWM also specifically solicits new vendors and small, local businesses for their contracts. For example, over 140 contractors and vendors attended “Industry Day,” a seminar and networking event in held October 2016 that provided information on the department’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), Consent Decree projects, water distribution projects, MOST-funded projects and Renew Atlanta-related projects. Since the Department of Watershed Management is currently in the middle of its largest infrastructure overhaul ever for the City's water and sewer systems — the $4 billion Clean Water Atlanta program – this outreach stands to significantly benefit the local economy and business owners.
While large infrastructure projects completed through Clean Water Atlanta will no doubt aid in the improvement of water quality and water distribution to customers, the DWM is also focused on green infrastructure projects that are cost effective, environmentally friendly, and attractive. Green infrastructure sited in neighborhoods with lack of access to greenspace will help reduce or eliminate flooding, provide a space for public gathering, and offer opportunities for job training and environmental education.