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What’s Next for the Lake Lanier Water Intake and Return Flow Projects

Forsyth County is a few steps closer to enjoying water independence.   

Two multi-year projects – the Water Intake Facility and Return Flow System projects – are underway and have reached milestones in their respective timelines.   

Check out what Capital Improvement Projects Manager Lynnette Ramirez had to say about the statuses of both projects and what’s next for the Water Intake Facility and Return Flow System.


Background Information  

Following a favorable ruling for Forsyth County from the U.S. Supreme Court on the “Tri-State Water Wars Litigation” between Alabama, Florida and Georgia in 2021, the Departments of Water & Sewer and Capital Projects began working on two projects.   

The Water Intake Facility project will allow the County to create an intake facility and take water from Lake Lanier, ensuring county residents a safe, reliable, high quality water supply.   

The Return Flow System project will convey highly treated water from the Fowler Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) to Lake Lanier, which is critical in creating a sustainable water infrastructure.   

While the projects are separately designed and constructed, they will work in tandem in the future to provide what Ramirez called a “One Water” approach – taking water from Lake Lanier, cleaning the water for residents, receiving used water from residents, and cleaning it to send back to Lake Lanier.   

“The benefit that both of these projects share – and it’s like a synergy – is reliability and sustainability,” Ramirez said. “We’re basically making sure that our system is sustainable for many years to come.”   

Both projects are designed to be low impact as they will exist mostly underground.


What’s next for the Water Intake Facility?   

Ramirez explained that the Water Intake Facility project can be broken down into three components – a water intake structure and tunnel, pump station and transmission main.    

The water intake structure will be approximately 40 feet below the lake’s surface and will have no effect on boats or swimmers in the area.  

All components of the project have completed 30 percent of their design phases, which Ramirez said is the first big milestone a project like this can hit.   

“The detailed basis of a project’s design is defined at 30 percent,” she said.   

Capital Projects has also finished geotechnical analyses, which samples soil through boring, and the department is halfway through completing extensive water quality sampling from Lake Lanier.    

“This will provide us comprehensive data to help ensure we continue to provide high quality water to our residents for years to come,” Ramirez said.   

Ramirez said an intermediate shaft was added to the design after the geotechnical analyses were completed due to the type of soils encountered along the project site.   

During future construction, a tunnel boring machine will be used to drill underground. Halfway to the intake, the tunnel boring machine will come out from the ground through the intermediate shaft, and a micro-tunneling machine will be inserted to finish drilling to the water intake location underwater.   

Ramirez said she is looking forward to the Water Intake Facility project’s next steps, which she estimates to be finishing water sampling in spring 2024 and hitting 60 percent of the design phase early next year.   

As for the transmission main, she estimated the project would hit its 60 percent design phase later this year.


What’s next for the Return Flow System project?

This project is separate from the Water Intake Facility project and includes a new pump station at the Fowler WRF, an 8-mile return flow pipeline and a diffuser in Lake Lanier.   

Ramirez said the major milestone for this project is that it has begun design and is in “full design phase.”  

The department has finished soil investigations, and all surveying efforts have been completed.   

Next steps for this project include completing the design and permitting efforts for the return flow pipeline, executing the procurement process following federal guidelines and having a construction contract in place by October 2024.

Want to know more about these projects and how they will benefit Forsyth County? Check out the projects’ websites to receive up to date information at: 

Water Intake Facility project:  

Return Flow System project:  

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