By Heather Mullinix
A study of water needs for Cumberland County found Crab Orchard Utility District would be the first water utility district in the area to find demand outpacing supply, but COUD General Manager Everitt Bolin believes there’s a way to not only provide for the expected growth of his district, but to supply the long-term water needs of the county.
“I just thought of Daddy’s Creek and the old county quarry [in Crab Orchard],” Bolin told the Chronicle.
The idea of harvesting water and storing it in the quarry came from talking with Gary McGill, with McGill Associates engineering firm of Knoxville, who mentioned a water supply project that involved taking water from a stream and harvesting it at high flow.
Bolin wasn’t sure how much water moved along Daddy’s Creek, a tributary of the Obed River, but was pleased to find the river had water flow gauges both up stream and down stream, with historical data dating back to 1934. The flow gauge upstream has been out of service for several years, however.
Bolin has applied to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for a permit to take five percent of the flow of Daddy’s Creek. Even at five percent, when using historical water flow data, Bolin said there was a surprising amount of water in the stream.
“At high flow and just five percent, you can get about 6 million gallons of water a day out of it,” Bolin said. “It shocked us all.”
That number comes from the historic flow data, not just data from this year’s unusually wet summer. At low flow, data showed about 1 million per day could be harvested without greatly impacting stream flow.
He anticipates storing water in the old Cumberland County rock quarry, currently owned by SCP Investments, LLC, and constructing a water treatment plant there just off Main St. in Crab Orchard. Bolin said he hasn’t worked out an agreement to purchase or use the quarry at this time and, should he not reach an agreement, he’d look elsewhere.
“Fairfield Glade is going to use what I have available,” Bolin said. “Plus, I transport water so far from Fairfield through here all the way to the county line, so I really need some [water supply] in Crab Orchard.”
In February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and GKY & Associates presented a study of the supply of raw water available in existing reservoirs and projected population growth. It found that COUD would have difficulty meeting demand in its district in 2036, but that assumed a treatment capacity of 4 million gallons a day at Otter Creek Water Treatment Plant.
Bolin said, “If we get an average of 3 million gallons of water a day, that will almost double what we have. The 6 million gallons a day would double what’s available in the county today.”
In addition to anticipated growth in the Fairfield Glade area, there is also a need to supply water to the Plateau Partnership Park, located in the Westel area. Previous studies found it more cost effective to pump water from Harriman to serve the park than to serve it from the Otter Creek Treatment Plant. A reservoir and treatment plant in Crab Orchard would make serving that area much more cost effective, Bolin said.
Currently, Otter Creek Lake has a limit of two million gallons of water per day, though the treatment plant could handle 4 million. Other water sources in the county include the city of Crossville’s Meadow Park Lake, which has a current capacity of 3.5 million gallons per day, and Holiday Lake has a current capacity of 2 million gallons per day and currently serves a limited area of Crossville.
The city also operates the Catoosa Water Department, serving areas of northern Cumberland County, and provides water to South Cumberland Utility District, Fall Creek Falls and Grandview utility districts.
Bolin sees the proposed water supply project as an opportunity for a regional water district that would not only provide an increased supply of raw water for future growth, but also help manage small sewer districts, such as those in Meridian and Linary that serve specific developments. Few homes have been constructed and sold in those developments, but Bolin said such systems would likely become more common in the future.
“With the rock and hills, it would be expensive to run lines all over the county to one spot for treatment,” he said.
These smaller systems offer a way to aid development of the county, with systems that provide potable water after treatment. That water could be used for irrigation purposes, too, allowing for reuse. Wastewater is recirculated through a filtration system until it is cleaned and then, prior to being released to a drip field, it is treated with ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria.
But those small systems need a financially secure entity to manage them.
That’s why he’s proposing a regional water district, with representation from across the county.
“If we get the utilities together, we would be financially strong enough to do the sewer,” he said. “That’s important for the county.”
Bolin said he plans on retiring in a few years and he would like to see the water needs of the county supplied or know that it’s on its way. He expects a decision from TDEC on the Daddy’s Creek water harvesting in August or September.