Westside Reservoir Park plan inches forward with $280 million water-supply project

City officials get OK to move ahead with project linking future reservoir to treatment plants, river


  • Atlanta Watershed Management
  • New project means Atlantans will stay hydrated, even during catastrophe

After nearly a decade spent wallowing in limbo, a former granite quarry purchased by the city in 2006 is beginning to show signs of life.

For years, the Westside’s defunct Bellwood Quarry has waited on funding and served as a TV production set. Occasionally people have snuck in and even scaled its walls. But it’s planned to become a 2.4 billion gallon reservoir, and the crown jewel of what will become Atlanta’s largest park, Westside Reservoir Park.

Last week, the Atlanta City Council approved Mayor Kasim Reed’s $280 million Water Supply Program,the first step toward making the vision become a reality. The blasé-sounding project will start digging tunnels and installing pipes to fill the pond.

The new public park — which is expected to be twice the size of Piedmont Park — will wrap around the old quarry and is expected to connect with the Atlanta Beltline. Atlanta Department of Watershed Management officials expect this development to “help the Beltline with building interest and revenue for its tax district.”

The news might annoy the kids who sneak into Bellwood and like to swim in water that’s already collecting at the quarry’s bottom, says DWM spokeswoman Lillian Govus.

To make the park plan become a reality, crews need to install the infrastructure. That includes a five-mile tunnel to be drilled connecting the reservoir to nearby water treatment plants. Once filled, the reservoir will increase the city’s water storage from the current three-day reserve to more than 30 days of reliable water.


  • Atlanta Watershed Management
  • DWM rendering shows what will be happening underground with the city's new water transmission system

Having such a back-up supply means Atlantans wouldn’t have to evacuate in water-shortage emergencies, like Washington D.C. residents would, Govus says. D.C. Water has a 36-hour backup supply. 

The first phase of the mammoth plan will start once DWM purchases property easements to compensate landowners above the tunnel. Govus says people living on the properties won’t notice what’s happening below “except for the flags in their yards from the surveyors.”

DWM will tap its general fund to pay for project’s bill, Govus says, and “nothing about the Water Supply Program will affect the rates people will pay for water in 2016.”

Phase one of the WSP will connect the reservoir and the Hemphill water treatment plant near Howell Mill Road. The second phase will link Hemphill to the Chattahoochee plant on Bolton Road with one ten-foot wide tunnel. Both projects are expected to be finished by January 2018.

Once water fills up the quarry, Govus says, “that's when parks and rec will swoop in and take over.”

When the program is up and running, Atlanta will boast one of the largest municipal water reserves in the nation, the department says. And Govus says the city could extend its water reserves to two months if Atlantans watch their water use.

The city will lease a tunnel-boring machine to do the actual digging and to build the underground water pipes. The agency plans to have the machine available for the public to gawk at by December. DWM plans to ask residents to help give the earth-eating monster a nickname. But it’s unclear if Atlanta will embrace the machine like D.C. residents did with the district’s “Lady Bird,” says Govus. The 442-foot-long beast is ending its long journey along the Potomac River and has its own Twitter account.