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monitoring water

Water Quality

We all know it: Clean water is vitally important—for people, for plants and for animals. Though TVA does not regulate water pollution, we care deeply about the quality of the water resources we manage, including the aquatic life that depends on it, and the recreation and economy it supports.

That’s why TVA monitors conditions in Valley waterways and supports a broad range of initiatives to protect and improve precious water resources. TVA monitors water quality and aquatic life throughout the Tennessee River system and shares data with communities, industries and organizations; manages water supply in the system; improves waters around TVA dams; and collaborates with communities, organizations and agencies to preserve and enhance the aquatic biodiversity in the Tennessee River system.

River System Monitoring

Knowledge is power, and the more we know about the health of our reservoirs, rivers and streams, the better we can protect them. Our waterways benefit from regular checkups just like we do. If we know their condition and can identify changes over time, we can take better care of them. That’s why we sample 528 stream sites on a five-year rotation and 69 sites on 31 reservoirs on a two-year rotation. Read more about reservoir ratings here.

Managing Water Supply

To keep water quality high, water quantity has to be managed effectively. That means balancing power production, navigational, industrial, agricultural and basic human needs—making sure there is enough water to go around under every circumstance, including drought conditions. Learn more about how TVA promotes wise use, conservation and development of the region's water resources.

Tailwater Improvements

Hydropower has its obvious advantages, but it also has some risks for aquatic life, too. One is a low concentration of oxygen in the water released through the dam during the generation of power, which can stress bottom dwellers; another is the risk of a dry riverbed when power generation is shut off. Since the early 90s, TVA has spent more than $135 million to remedy these two areas of trouble, pulsing releases through the dams to prevent dry beds and employing ingenious methods of introducing oxygen to depleted water. Read more about how TVA has maintained water quality in the former problem in a true success story: Boosting Oxygen in the Tennessee Valley Tailwater.

Protecting the Waterways

The Tennessee River watershed is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in the world. It is home to more than 300 species of fish and dozens of species of freshwater mussels. The color and beauty below the surface is amazing, as seen in the documentary “Hidden Rivers”. But this aquatic life can’t thrive without help from humans. That's why we work with partner agencies to protect and enhance the water in six priority watersheds: the Clinch, Powell, Elk, Duck, Little Tennessee and Paint Rock Rivers and Bear Creek.

How do we do it? Our projects include conservation easements, streambank stabilization, buffer establishment, barrier removal, in-stream habitat improvements, mussel augmentation and more.