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Friday, Mar. 6, 2015

Water from Duck River being disposed of in Elk River

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

(Photo)
This graphic, part of the 2000 TVA study entitled Future Water Supply Needs in the Upper Duck River Basin, shows that the city of Tullahoma is taking water from the Duck River watershed and is pumping it into Tims Ford Lake, part of the Elk River watershed. A former engineer with the city of Shelbyville, who contributed to the TVA report, says that the region should be getting this water back.
(TVA graphic)
"Tullahoma, send us your sewage!"

That's what a former engineer for the City of Shelbyville says should happen, due to the fact that the neighboring city is taking water from Normandy Reservoir and then pumping its treated water into the Elk River watershed instead of back into the Duck River watershed.

Fred Horn says there's a major leak in our water supply, and its name is the City of Tullahoma.

Horn worked on a number of engineering projects for the city, including drainage projects. He also contributed to the Tennessee Valley Authority's Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement from December 2000 entitled Future Water Supply Needs in the Upper Duck River Basin.

The report evaluates the water needs of the upper Duck River watershed over a 50-year planning period, identifies potential ways to meet water needs and looks at the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of meeting those needs.

The former city engineer said it has been fairly well established over the past 10 years that the Duck River watershed is running low on water.

Horn says that while Tullahoma takes its drinking water from the Duck River watershed, meaning Normandy Reservoir, it does not put it back but instead discharges it into the Elk River system. As a result, Shelbyville, Lewisburg and Columbia are denied an opportunity to reprocess the lost water, Horn said.

The TVA Environmental Impact Statement states: "Tullahoma discharges treated wastewater into Rock Creek, a tributary to the Elk River which drains into Tims Ford Reservoir," Horn points out. From that point, Tims Ford discharges the water into the Elk River, which goes downstream to Lincoln County and then to Alabama.

Executive Director Doug Murphy of the Duck River Agency said this action does have an impact on the amount of water available in the Duck River watershed, but he would not characterize it as "major."

"It is true that we are losing water that goes through the Tullahoma system and is discharged back into the Elk River," he said.

Murphy says that Tullahoma takes a little under two and a half million gallons of water from Normandy per day, returning about 50 to 60 percent of it as treated waste water into the Elk River watershed.

"That does sound like a lot, but in the major scheme of things, it's not," Murphy said. "But I wouldn't turn it down if we could get it. We can use all the water we can get."

"It is lost to all downstream communities forever," Horn says. He added that Tullahoma uses 1,000 gallons per household everyday, and Horn estimates that Tullahoma draws seven cubic feet of water per second from the Duck River.

That's 18 percent of the minimum 40 cubic feet per second TVA maintains as the flow from Normandy Dam, Horn says.

While taking water from one basin and placing in another may have been easy 30 years ago, Murphy said that it would be extremely difficult to get the permits for an interbasin transfer of water today. A number of laws have been passed since that time and there would be "a number of issues" in moving the water from one watershed to another, Murphy said.

"In the past, there really wasn't that much concern," Murphy said,

Another consideration Hunt takes into account is the growth of Coffee County, pointing out the water consumed each year by visitors to the Bonnaroo Music Festival and what the potential impact would be of the proposed U.S. Air Force's Common Battlefield Airman Training (CBAT) project.

"Every bit of growth in Tullahoma is going to bleed another slice of water from the Duck River," Horn stated.

The TVA report presents several options for supplying more water to the Duck River, which include taking no action and using present water sources, building another reservoir in the downstream part of the Fountain Creek watershed, southeast of Columbia, constructing a water supply intake on the Duck River downstream from the mouth of Catheys Creek northwest of Columbia or raising the pool level of Normandy Lake.

However, one option which Horn recommends is to build a water supply intake and pumping station on a northern embayment of Tims Ford along with a pipeline and booster station to a discharge point on the Duck River near Shelbyville.

According to the TVA study, "In the Duck River, the water from Tims Ford Reservoir would augment the existing flow only during extreme drought conditions ... If this water was discharged upstream from Shelbyville, it would provide some water qualify benefit to the Shelbyville wastewater discharge by providing more initial dilution for the treated wastewater."

In fact, Murphy says that TVA is currently doing an internal feasibility study on all these options to increase the amount of water in the Duck River basin.

"But the thing that is going to kick us there is doing an interbasin water transfer," Murphy explained about the final option. "We haven't done any feasibility studies, but it may be cheaper for Tullahoma to pump their water back into the Duck River."

Murphy said the Duck River had proposed to TVA last summer raising the pool level at Normandy, but TVA officials warned that the area would probably not get "the bang for the buck" the area was looking for.

Horn recommends taking the water out of Hurricane Creek and running eight miles of pipeline to the drainage of Thompson Creek near Motlow College, which flows into the Duck River.

Murphy also said there could be other options "that we haven't come across yet," that would increase the amount of water in the Duck.

"I feel Tullahoma owes us our water back ... I've seen the fights out west over water resources and I think we're facing one here," Horn said.