Office of Watershed Protection
The Office of Watershed Protection has responsibility for the City’s
grease management, green space protection, stream bank stabilization,
flood prevention, erosion control, land development regulation and site
development plan review programs. Led by Deputy Commissioner Margaret Tanner, it is currently overseeing development of a stormwater utility.
What is a watershed?
A watershed is the area of land from which all rainfall (runoff) drains into a body of water. A watershed is like a funnel—collecting all the water within the drainage area and channeling it into a waterway.
Image courtesy of The Center for Watershed Protection
The City of Atlanta’s geography is unique in that it is one of the few cities to be located on a subcontinental divide. That means that rain that falls in the northern and western areas of the City drains into the Chattahoochee River and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico; while rain that falls in the southern and eastern parts of the City drains into the Ocmulgee River and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. The Chattahoochee River collects drainage from seven watersheds in the City including Long Island, Nancy, Peachtree, Proctor, Sandy, Utoy and Camp creeks. The Ocmulgee River collects drainage from three watersheds in the City including South River and Sugar and Intrenchment creeks.
Why Are Watersheds Important?
Healthy watersheds are essential for providing clean drinking water, recreational activities and wildlife habitat. Traditionally, most water pollution control efforts addressed point source pollution commonly associated with industrial activities and sewage treatment plants. While these regulations have become effective at controlling point source pollution, we have come to learn that non-point source pollution (stormwater runoff) is the leading cause of water quality problems.
As land in a watershed is developed, natural areas are converted to impervious surfaces such as streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Stormwater that would normally soak into the ground becomes runoff. While some stormwater runoff is normal, the increased volume of runoff associated with impervious surfaces can cause streambank erosion, flooding, property damage and even the loss of life. Additionally, this runoff can pick up pollutants such as sediment and chemicals and dump them directly to the streams and rivers we depend on to sustain life.
Because land, and the water that runs over and through it, are intimately connected, a watershed approach to managing water quality is important. A watershed approach considers all the activities within a landscape that affect watershed health. A watershed approach is essential to protecting, restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
How is the City Protecting Watersheds?
The City of Atlanta is committed to protecting our watersheds and improving the environment. Several efforts are under way to reclaim and protect Atlanta’s streams. Click on the links below to find out more.
What Can I Do?
There are many things that you can do at home or work to help protect and enhance the health of our watersheds. The Metro North Georgia Clean Water Campaign web site has many excellent suggestions.
Additionally, if you live adjacent to a stream, the Life at the Water’s Edge site can help you manage your land for stream health.