During the period April 1975 to June 1978, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a river-quality assessment of the Upper Chattahoochee River basin in Georgia. One objective of the study was to assess the magnitudes, nature, and effects of point and non-point discharges in the Chattahoochee River basin from Atlanta to the West Point Dam.
On an average annual basis and during the storm period of March 1215, 1976, non-point-source loads for most constituents analyzed were larger than point-source loads at the Whitesburg station, located on the Chattahoochee River about 40 river miles downstream of Atlanta. Most of the non-point-source constituent loads in the Atlanta-to-Whitesburg reach were from urban areas. Average annual point-source discharges accounted for about 50 percent of the dissolved nitrogen, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus loads, and about 70 percent of the dissolved phosphorus loads at Whitesburg.
During weekends, power generation at the upstream Buford Dam hydroelectric facility is minimal. Streamflow at the Atlanta station during dry-weather weekends is estimated to be about 1,200 ft3/s (cubic feet per second). Average daily dissolved-oxygen concentrations of less than 5.0 mg/L (milligrams per liter) occurred often in the river, about 20 river miles downstream from Atlanta during these periods from May to November.
During a low-flow period, June 1-2, 1977, five municipal point sources contributed 63 percent of the ultimate biochemical oxygen demand, 97 percent of the ammonium nitrogen, 78 percent of the total nitrogen, and 90 percent of the total phosphorus loads at the Franklin station, at the upstream end of West Point Lake. Average daily concentrations of 13 mg/L of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand and 1.8 mg/L of ammonium nitrogen were observed about 2 river miles downstream from two of the municipal point sources. Carbonaceous and nitrogenous oxygen demands caused dissolved-oxygen concentrations between 4.1 and 5.0 mg/L to occur in a 22-mile reach of the river downstream from Atlanta. Nitrogenous oxygen demands were greater than carbonaceous oxygen demands in the reach from river mile 303 to 271, and carbonaceous demands were greater from river mile 271 to 235. The heat load from the Atkinson-McDonough thermoelectric power-plants caused a decrease in the dissolved-oxygen concentrations of about 0.2 mg/L.
During a critical low-flow period, a streamflow at Atlanta of about 1,800 ft3/s, with present (1977) point-source flows of 185 ft3/s containing concentrations of 45 mg/L of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand and 15 mg/L of ammonium nitrogen, results in a computed minimum dissolved-oxygen concentration of 4.7 mg/L in the river downstream from Atlanta. In the year 2000, a streamflow at Atlanta of about 1,800 ft3/s with point-source flows of 373 ft3/s containing concentrations of 45 mg/L of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand and 5.0 mg/L of ammonium nitrogen, will result in a computed minimum dissolved-oxygen concentration of 5.0 mg/L. A streamflow of about 1,050 ft3/s at Atlanta in the year 2000 will result in a dissolved-oxygen concentration of 5.0 mg/L if point-source flows contain concentrations of 15 mg/L of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand and 5.0 mg/L of ammonium nitrogen.
Phytoplankton concentrations in West Point Lake, about 70 river miles downstream from Atlanta, could exceed 3 million cells per milliliter during extended low-flow periods in the summer with present point- and non-point-source nitrogen and phosphorus loads. In the year 2000, phytoplankton concentrations in West Point Lake are not likely to exceed 700,000 cells per milliliter during extended low-flow periods in the summer, if phosphorus concentrations do not exceed 1.0 mg/L in point-source discharges.