Lake Allatoona is wetter than it’s supposed to be.
As of Sunday afternoon, the water level was about 9 and a half feet above normal operating conditions.
Cobb County Marietta Water Authority general manager Glenn Page said that is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.
“Let’s just say it’s an expected thing,” he said. “Allatoona Lake was purposed by Congress as a flood control reservoir. … and while it does have other purposes, for power production, recreation and most importantly, in my opinion, for water supply, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do to capture winter rains.”
Allatoona is a man-made lake managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Page said the corps drops the water level in the winter and starts filling it in again every Jan. 1st. 840 feet above sea level is considered full capacity. As rains began to fall Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey reported the water level was at 849.52 feet above sea level.
TowBoatUS is a towing fleet that operates across the U.S. including in Lake Allatoona. On their Facebook page, the company advised boaters to use extreme caution, especially at night, as debris including tree trunks has been reported floating on the lake. Boaters are also advised to take it slow around docks and marinas as to not put additional strain on them.
“Due to the severe strain on dock anchors, we are asking anyone on the water to act as if you’re on a no wake zone passing marinas and personal docks,” the company posted Friday. “Still a lot of boaters are on the water today. Please maintain a safe speed. We are getting reports of debris all over the lake.”
High water levels can also mean challenges for drinking water providers.
The water authority provides purified water to retail water suppliers in Cobb County and beyond, drawing from Allatoona and the Chattahoochee. Page said this year’s water level represents the third highest in the last 15 years, and his staff always keeps a close eye on things when the water mark gets so high.
“What happens when water gets this high is winter leaves fallen off the trees … logs floating in the water, it gets picked up, everything around the lake,” he said. “When the waters recede, all of that will be brought into the water and it’s degraded. The organic matter, as those leaves and other organic materials and trash that unfortunately is around the lake starts to break down in the water, that becomes a nutrient. It could create an algae bloom when the water heats up but also … can cause taste and odor in water.”
He said the authority will be taking steps ahead of time to try to make sure customers’ tap water doesn’t pick up any funk.
On the bright side, Page said without Lake Allatoona to soak up the excess water, communities downstream like Rome would be flooded, adding there is still plenty of capacity to keep those places safe, even with the higher levels.
He also urged people not to assume water will remain abundant just because it is now.
“Things constantly change,” he said. “The wettest year on record was 1948, and that was followed by an eight-year drought, so people that manage water resources, the Corps of Engineers, those of us who manage public water systems, everyone that is dependent on water, which really is everyone, needs to be sensitive to how quickly things can change. At the beginning of 2018, we were planning for drought conditions in the summer. Then it started raining around June, and it hasn’t stopped, it doesn’t seem. So now our coffers are full, so to speak, but we know drought conditions could be just around the corner because we have such limited storage for water and we have a highly variable amount of rainfall from year to year.”