Lifeblood of a Legacy
TVA Water Management is Vitally Important to Region
Just 12 years after the Civil War had ended, George Bridgeforth Sr., a freed slave, made his first purchase of land in north Alabama to establish a family farm.
Today, nearly 150 years and five generations later, that farm has grown to encompass 10,000 acres in four counties.
Bridgeforth Farms is now one the largest in the region, producing cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum and canola.
The current owners, Gregory and Bill Bridgeforth, are the great grandsons of George. There’s also a fifth generation of Bridgeforth farmers—Lamont, Carlton and Kyle.
On a recent morning, as the northern Alabama breeze rustled through the cotton and grain fields, a group of employees worked with deft hands to prep, water and harvest their array of crops.
Nearby, Bill had something specific on his mind.
Chiefly, an immense appreciation for this life-giving resource.
“Clean water is equally as important as clean air,” he said.
In the production of cotton and grain, the Bridgeforth family has developed a lasting gratitude for clean, accessible water.
They know it helps keep their crops healthy and flourishing throughout the growing season.
Bridgeforth Farms receives irrigation water from TVA’s Wheeler Reservoir, and about 98% of the farm's irrigation is supplied by the Tennessee River.
This means one thing: Bridgeforth Farms has direct contact with TVA-managed water.
“TVA water management is vitally important to our farm,” Bill said.
A Resourceful Report
TVA manages the water supply in the Tennessee Valley region to ensure sustainable supplies are available to run power plants, serve industrial customers, support wildlife and provide clean drinking water to residents.
But this management also ensures there's a sustainable supply of water available to agricultural lands, such as Bridgeforth Farms.
It requires a keen understanding of resources.
Sustainability is among the most important aspects of water management. It requires planning and foresight to ensure water use aligns with the needs of farmers now and into the future.
In developing their Water Supply Report, TVA specialists analyze the amount of water being used in the region every five years. They then use this information to predict water supply levels 25 years out.
In 2022, a new version of the report provided key insights into how water is used today and how stakeholders may use it in 2045.
The forecasting helps TVA's specialists analyze use and adjust programs to best support the region's continued economic and population growth.
And a glimpse at water use in recent years tells the tale.
From 2015 to 2020, water withdrawals declined nearly 17%, with an additional 11% drop expected by 2045.
“Water use analyses allow TVA to effectively manage the integrated operation of the TVA river system,” TVA Water Resources engineer Jenny Sharkey said.
The reuse of water in the region also speaks to sustainability initiatives.
In 2020, for example, about 8.4 billion gallons of water were withdrawn each day, but the system returned about 98% for reuse, according to the Water Supply Report.
“The residents of the Valley are good stewards of the water," TVA Water Supply program manager Gary Springston said.
The effective management of water – both use and reuse – undergirds TVA’s long-term goals of supporting the environment while strengthening economic development and energy infrastructure.
And it's all designed for the noble purpose of serving those who call this region home.
"The way we operate our integrated river system is for the people of the Valley," Amanda Turk, manager of Hydrologic Impacts and Risk Evaluation, said. “Our mission is for the people of the Valley."
Ultimately, sustainable and clean water ensures farmers like Bill Bridgeforth can continue supplying high-quality products to customers.
“We love what we are doing,” Bill said. “We are blessed to do what we love.”
Visit the Water Supply Management page to learn how TVA serves as a steward of water resources.