43 cents a day

Jennifer HarmanBlog

Pitcher of water in front of bridge over Cumberland River Nashville TN

What can you get for 43¢?

In Nashville, that’s what it would cost each resident to pay for the entire city’s average total daily water use. Only $0.43. That’s a fraction of what the average American pays daily just for coffee.

So what does Metro Water do for your $0.43 a day?

We operate and maintain two water treatment plants, 56 pumping stations, 37 reservoirs and over 3,000 miles of pipes that bring clean, safe water to over 200,000 customers across Nashville. That’s a far cry from where we were 200 years ago at the beginnings of our water system, which consisted of a simple pump and pipeline made of hollowed logs.

That $0.43 pays for the electricity bill at Omohundro that comes to around $200,000 a month. It pays for the repair of an average of 38 broken mains a month as our system continues to age. It pays for our employees who operate our plants 24/7/365 including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and, yes, even the Super Bowl.

And we do it all for only a third of a penny per gallon.

That’s probably not what you think about though when you turn on your tap. When you’re washing the dishes, taking a shower, or grabbing a refreshing glass of water to drink, you probably aren’t thinking about how that water got there or what it takes to make it safe and available to you 24/7.

Good, clean water since 1889

We are very fortunate in Nashville to have an abundant supply of water, thanks to the Cumberland River. Our oldest treatment plant, Omohundro, has been pulling from its steady flow since 1889.

In those early days, we pumped the river water up to our 8th Avenue Reservoir, which was designed as a settling basin. Mud would fall to the bottom of the reservoir and we distributed the clearer water on top. Of course, we didn’t treat the water at that time, which allowed water borne disease to plague thousands in Nashville and led to first water filtration facility, built in 1929, at Omohundro Drive.

Since then, Omohundro has remained in operation and was joined by our K.R. Harrington water treatment plant in 1978. These two plants have the capacity to supply Nashville with up to 180 million gallons of water a day, and have seen numerous upgrades to both stay ahead of state and federal regulations, and improve safety and efficiency for staff and the community alike. Most recently we’ve incorporated the use of on-site generation of bleach, which eliminates the need to transport chlorine gas for disinfection.

The treatment process itself is a sped up version of what we used to do at the reservoir with some important steps added to it. We use alum to assist in coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation (the settling process), then send that clear water to be filtered. In the summer we add powder activated carbon, the same stuff you see in a water pitcher filter, to remove unpleasant taste and odors caused by algae blooms in the river. Before sending it into our distribution system and to your home or business, we disinfect and add a small amount of fluoride, as endorsed by the Metro Health Department. We also test for water quality bihourly at all stages of the process and make those results available online in our annual Consumer Confidence Report.

This process, combined with ensuring the reliability of the distribution system, takes hundreds of employees, meticulous 24 -hour a day oversight, constant maintenance throughout the county-wide system, and above all dedication to the community’s health, safety, and quality of life.

Veronica Logue taking samples at Brown’s Creek

Our clean water begins and ends with the source: The Cumberland River

With that in mind, drinking water treatment isn’t the only piece of this puzzle. Our water starts and ends in the Cumberland River and, therefore, the health of the river is vital to the work that we do every day for our city.

On the front end, we regularly monitor the water quality of the Cumberland and its tributaries. We habitually take samples from the river to test for things like metals, bacteria, and taste and odor so we know what’s up before it gets to our treatment plant. Additionally, we investigate daily to identify businesses or individuals who may be illegally dumping into our storm drains and waterways that could negatively impact the quality of the river.

On the back end, (no pun intended), we’ve been treating wastewater since we opened our Central Wastewater Treatment Plant in 1958. This process replaced the old way of dumping directly into our creeks and streams. Now, before sending it to the river, we take the water that you send down the drain or flush down your toilet and make it safe for the natural wildlife that call the river home.

Clean Water Nashville Overflow Abatement Program

Of course, correcting the mistakes of the days of old does take time, money and support. In the older parts of the city, the sanitary sewer system is combined with the stormwater sewer system, and excessive rainfall can still cause a sewer overflow in some areas. That’s why we established the Clean Water Nashville Overflow Abatement Program in 2011. Under this program, we have completed 26 major projects, have 9 more currently under construction, 8 projects are in the design phase, and 32 projects are planned for the future–all of which are detailed online.

To us, drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater, it’s all ‘one water’. And our water has to be protected and respected at all stages of that cycle to ensure the safety and health of all who live, work and play in Nashville.

So you may not think much of $0.43 a day, but the next time you turn on your tap, remember that for only a third of a penny per gallon the 684,000+ residents of Nashville served by our system have access to clean, safe and dependable drinking water every day.


About the author

Jenn Harrman is a Public Information Representative for Metro Water Services in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information about Metro Water Services, visit their website at www.nashville.gov/Water-Services.

For ways you can directly contribute to the protection of our water, visit www.onedegreepledge.com