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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5130

Prepared in cooperation with the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Water Withdrawals, Wastewater Discharge, and Water Consumption in the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins, 2005, and Water-Use Trends, 1970–2005

By Richard L. Marella and Julia L. Fanning

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The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin covers about 20,500 square miles that drains parts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The basin extends from its headwaters northern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. Population in the basin was estimated to be 3.7 million in 2005, an increase of about 41 percent from the 1990 population of 2.6 million. In 2005, slightly more than 721,000 acres of crops were irrigated within the basin.

In 2005, the total amount of water withdrawn in the ACF River Basin was about 1,990 million gallons per day (Mgal/d). Of this, surface water accounted for 1,591 Mgal/d (80 percent) and groundwater accounted for 399 Mgal/d (20 percent). Surface water was the primary water source of withdrawals in the northern and central parts of the basin, and groundwater was the primary source in the southern part. The largest surface-water withdrawals was from Cobb County, Georgia (410 Mgal/d, mostly from the Chattahoochee River and Lake Alatoona), and the largest groundwater withdrawals was from Dougherty County, Georgia (38 Mgal/d, mostly from the Upper Floridan aquifer system).

Thermoelectric power generation accounted for the largest water withdrawals in 2005 at 788 Mgal/d (40 percent). Most of these withdrawals were used for once-through cooling, and nearly all water used for this purpose was returned to its source. Public supply accounted for 609 Mgal/d (30 percent) of total withdrawals in 2005, followed by agricultural self-supplied (including crop, golf course irrigation, and livestock) at 365 Mgal/d (18 percent), commercial-industrial self-supplied (including mining) at 191 Mgal/d (10 percent), and domestic self-supplied at 37 Mgal/d (2 percent). Public-supply withdrawals were lowest during January, February, and March (about 500 Mgal/d), and highest during September (about 700 Mgal/d).

As the population of the ACF River Basin increased by 1.7 million (83 percent) in the 35 years between 1970 and 2005, total withdrawals in the basin increased by more than 515 Mgal/d (35 percent). Of this increase, surface-water accounted for 206 Mgal/d (15 percent) and groundwater accounted for 309 Mgal/d (350 percent). Since 1980, total water withdrawals have generally declined, except in 2000 when they peaked because of below-average rainfall.

In 2000, an estimated 49 percent of the water withdrawn for public supply in the basin was consumed, and the remaining 51 percent was returned to the hydrologic system through wastewater treatment systems. In 2005, an estimated 38 percent was consumed and 62 percent was returned to the hydrologic system. This contrast between water withdrawals and wastewater discharges for these years was caused primarily by below-average rainfall during 2000 (a dry year) and above-average rainfall during 2005 (a wet year).

First posted October 26, 2011

For additional information contact:
Rich Marella
U.S. Geological Survey
Florida Water Science Center
12703 Research Parkway
Orlando, FL 32826

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Suggested citation:

Marella, R.L., and Fanning, J.L., 2011, Water withdrawals, wastewater discharge, and water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, 2005, and water-use trends, 1970–2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5130, 34 p., available at




Purpose and Scope

Previous Investigations

Data Sources and Accuracy

Description of Study Area

Estimated Water Withdrawals, 2005

Total Water Withdrawals by Category, 2005

Monthly (Seasonal) Water Withdrawals, 2005

Domestic Wastewater Discharge, 2005

Estimated Public Supply Water Consumption, 2000 and 2005

Trends in Water Withdrawals, 1970–2005

Total Water-Withdrawal Trends

Water Withdrawal Trends by Category

Monthly (Seasonal) Water-Withdrawal Trends

Wastewater Discharge Trends, 1990–2005


References Cited


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