From the River to the Tap


On any given day, a typical single-family home in Chattanooga will use approximately 70 gallons of water for daily activities, such as drinking, cooking and washing.  When people turn on the faucet, they expect to have clean water they can drink or use at any given time.  So just how does the water get from the Tennessee River to your tap?

Chattanooga’s water source is the Tennessee River, which provides Tennessee American Water an adequate water supply throughout the year.  The water in the Tennessee River comes from watersheds in the Tennessee Valley.  Watersheds serve as natural funnels directing water to the river.  Watersheds are comprised of rivers, creeks, forests, mountains and hills that transport water that eventually ends up in the Tennessee River.  As water travels through watersheds, it picks up natural and manmade contaminants. 

The untreated water in the river, while safe for recreational activities like swimming and fishing, does not meet Safe Drinking Water standards for human consumption set by the federal government; therefore, consuming water straight from the Tennessee River is not recommended.

To ensure the water delivered to our customers is free of contaminants and meets stringent water quality standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee American Water must employ a complex water treatment process that involves clarification and filtration.

Tennessee American Water pumps water from the Tennessee River into its water treatment plant where chlorine is added to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, and to oxidize certain chemical compounds for removal. Then the water travels through clarification basins to remove particles. The water then is filtered through sand and granular activated carbon to remove odors and any remaining particles. Before the water is pumped through the network of pipes to our customers the final chemical treatment is accomplished.  A small amount of chlorine, fluoride to prevent tooth decay, and a food grade corrosion inhibitor to protect the lines in the customer’s home are added to make sure water quality remains good on the way to customer taps. 

Once the water is treated, Tennessee American Water will either store the water in a variety of elevated and ground storage tanks or it is immediately delivered to homes and businesses.



Tennessee's 55 Watersheds (pdf map)


Description of the  Lower Tennessee River Watershed (pdf report)