TVA Maintains Healthy Water Quality

What was once a curse in the Tennessee Valley is now a blessing: the water associated with the Tennessee River. TVA—along with Federal, state and local partners—does everything in its power to ensure that it is useful and of the highest quality possible.

More than 270 fish species call the Tennessee River home—making it a world hot spot for freshwater biodiversity. For more than 80 years, TVA has managed our rivers and reservoirs to provide a clean, quality source of water for the people and wildlife of the Tennessee River Valley.

The water of the Tennessee River basin is the most heavily used in the nation. It’s also the most recycled. Almost 12 billion gallons of water a day are removed for industrial use, municipal water supplies and agricultural purposes. Of the water that’s pulled from the Tennessee River system, 96 percent is recycled back into it.

The hard work from civic organizations and local, state and Federal agencies has made sure the Tennessee River system and its many tributaries remain healthy ecosystems to support the multiple uses such as recreation, navigation, drinking water and power production.

Because water is one of the Tennessee Valley’s most valuable resources, check out some of the things that TVA does to keep your river system sustainable for generations to come.

Here’s what TVA does to keep the Valley’s waters healthy:

  • Issues 26a permits to commercial/industrial users in order to monitor how much water is taken out of the river system.
  • Supports state water pollution control agencies by providing data from TVA’s robust, long-term Reservoir and River Health Monitoring program. The 30-year-old program assesses water quality and ecological health conditions by collecting samples from 528 stream sites (on a five-year rotation) and 69 sites on 31 reservoirs (on a two-year rotation) to monitor for river health.
  • Tests water quality (maintaining daily, weekly, monthly and yearly schedules) at all of our facilities to ensure discharges comply with local, state and federal regulations.
  • Works toward permanently closing all wet coal ash impoundments at a cost of $1.5 billion to $2 billion. TVA is pioneering dry coal ash intelligent compaction storage technology to protect ground and surface water.
  • Monitors all ash storage using more than 7,000 real-time sensors at TVA coal ash impoundments, which send data every five minutes to ensure dike stability and monitor ground and surface water levels.
  • Manages a comprehensive groundwater assessment program for each of the 11 coal plants that have operated in the Tennessee Valley. These assessments are being conducted by internal and outside experts, providing the most accurate information available about the groundwater near TVA coal ash sites.
  • Maintains more than $60 million worth of equipment TVA's invested to increase dissolved oxygen concentrations below 16 dams and spends over $3 million to operate the equipment annually to maintain a healthy aquatic system. 

Air Quality Matters!

That's why TVA has worked tirelessly to improve air quality, realizing steady declines in rates of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions. Thanks to it's efforts, and those of Valley businesses and local regulators—the Valley's air is at its cleanest, having recently achieved Valleywide ozone standard compliance. Read more about TVA's air quality successes.

TVA Brings Fun to the Valley

George Norris not only helped establish TVA, but he also made sure that natural resource management was woven into the fabric of the organization—as important as energy production or economic development. Net result? Thousands of acres of public lands and millions of acres of public waters available for residents to play on. See how TVA’s land and shoreline management policies support recreation for the good of the Valley.