Holston River provides plentiful water source for Kingsport during drought

Matthew Lane • Sep 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Steve Flanary and Larry Vicars, both operators at the Kingsport Water Plant, routinely check the sedimentation basins where water from the Holston is processed. Erica Yoon photo.


KINGSPORT — Even though some cities across the state are facing water shortages and usage restrictions, the city of Kingsport has the most protected source of water in Northeast Tennessee, a city official said Tuesday.

The summer drought has affected many cities in the Volunteer State. Franklin water customers are under strict restrictions, and crews shut off service to five homeowners earlier this month for violating the restrictions. Portland officials say they may start imposing fines if water customers do not start complying with restrictions.

Selmer is facing a drop in water pressure, voluntary water conservation is taking place in Munford and Atoka, Adamsville is reporting burst pipes due to shifting dry ground, and Maryville is buying water from Blount County’s water utility as its water supply is flowing at historic lows.

Kingsport Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said the city’s water source is well-protected, and Kingsport would be unaffected by the recent drought.

“We’re on the south fork of the Holston River, and there are five dams above us. They act as storage, and the Tennessee Valley Authority controls the water and ensures an adequate flow through the river system,” McReynolds said. “We always encourage conservation. We don’t have an issue with this drought or any other time dealing with water source asking for mandatory restrictions.”

The five dams Kingsport lies below are Fort Patrick Henry, Boone, Watauga, Holston and the Little Wilbur. Even without the dams, Kingsport’s water source — the Holston River — is fed by the Watauga River, which is Johnson City’s source. Bristol’s source is just below the South Holston River.

“Kingsport is located on the river. All water has to travel by that river, and we have the most water passing by our intake than other utility this side of Morristown,” McReynolds said. “We’re blessed to have such a good source.”

Kingsport’s water intakes are located about a half mile up the river from the John B. Dennis Highway’s crossing of the South Fork of the Holston River. On Tuesday, approximately 840 million gallons of water flowed by the city’s intakes, which took in about 16 million gallons of water.

“The amount of water we pull out compared to the flow is minuscule,” McReynolds said.

The city’s water system can process 28 million gallons of water, and on any day the city stores about 17 million gallons of processed water in 22 tanks across the city.

McReynolds said the storage tanks are not meant to buffer the city from a shortage in water source, but rather an extended water line break.

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