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Buford has long since been a city with visionaries who had a can-do spirit and a strong sense of independence. In 1934, the first waterworks plant was built to serve the residents of Buford. Buford Waterworks has faithfully served Bufordites for more than 80 years and with a new plant in the future, it will continue to provide residents with clean water.

Today, Buford Waterworks is just one of five municipal waterworks within Gwinnett County. Auburn, Braselton, Loganville and Suwanee are the only other municipalities with their own waterworks. The majority of residents within Gwinnett County get their water supplied from the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources.

Buford Waterworks supplies close to 2 million gallons of water daily through its plant located on Lake Lanier in the northern part of the city. Gainesville, Cumming, Buford, Forsyth County and Gwinnett County are the only local governments with contracts with the US Army Corps of Engineers that allows them to pull water from the reservoir. 

Contracts to have the rights to the water in Lake Lanier are not easy to come by. To understand just how Buford was granted water rights to the lake, one must know the history of Buford Waterworks.

Before 1934, Buford had a contract dating to 1904 with the Bona Allen Company to pull water from the company’s reservoir. Through a series of bonds, the first of which dated back to 1905, the city began to raise the funds to construct its own waterworks. It wasn’t until the federal government provided stimulus funding to the city that the Buford Waterworks was completed in 1934.

The site of Buford Waterworks in 1934 is key to the waterworks of today. The city chose a site located on Big Creek at the northwest corner of the city, which lies in southern Hall County. 

The original map of the area that the US Army Corps of Engineers is part of the contract between the city and the Army Corps. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne

As Atlanta grew in population, the federal government began to look at sites to construct a reservoir to provide the city with drinking water. The US Army Corps of Engineers decided to dam the Chattahoochee River at a site near the city of Buford, which would create what is now Lake Sidney Lanier. Since the site of the original waterworks on Big Creek would be underwater once the lake was constructed, the city of Buford was awarded a contract that allowed the city to pull water from the lake. 

While the original 1934 intake structure on Big Creek was underwater after the lake filled up between 1956 and 1959, the actual water plant was not impacted. Thus a new intake structure/pump house was the only part that needed to be constructed in the mid-1950s.

The 1950s intake structure is still in use today and is 52 feet deep on the backside of the structure. However, water is only pulled from the top 40 feet with intake pipes every 10 feet, which can be switched between when necessary. The water is pumped up to a holding reservoir before entering the water plant to go through the various filtration stages.

In 1964 through 1965, the water plant was expanded, which doubled the amount of water that Buford Waterworks could handle each day. The capacity went from 500,000 gallons a day to 1 million gallons per day. The next major improvement to the system was in 1993-94 when a new filtration system was introduced that allowed the capacity to once again double, bringing the new capacity to 2 million gallons a day.

Fast forward to present day, Buford is still growing and the demand for water grows as well. The current plant has reached the maximum capacity it can handle. The contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers allows the city to pull 2.5 million gallons a day, giving the city room to grow. With the waterworks plant being unable to handle more water, the decision was made to construct an all new plant that will be able to process 2.5 million gallons of water a day.

The new waterworks expansion is set to break ground next month and is expected to be completed in two years. The new plant will be built beside the existing plant and will be state of the art, incorporating many new features that will better ensure that the residents of Buford will have the best, cleanest water for decades to come.

Featured photo above:  Pictured is one of the original 1934 motors used to pump water out of the plant.  Photo by Alicia Couch Payne.

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