Water System History
Established 1823 – Oldest system west of Appalachians
1836 – First cast iron pipe laid
1843 – Big Spring deeded to COH (~ 111 customers)
1858 – COH purchased water works for $10,000
1914 – First chlorinator installed
1954 – Huntsville Utilities Waterworks Board formed
1955 – Lincoln & Dallas Wells replaced Big Spring as water supply
1964 – South Parkway Plant constructed (12 MGD – Million Gallons per Day)
1966 – South Parkway expanded to 24 MGD
1971 – Williams Well drilled to 4.5 MGD
1978 – South Parkway expanded to 36 MGD
1988 – Southwest Plant constructed to 12 MGD
1989 – Southwest Plant high rated to 18 MGD
1992 – Southwest Plant high rated to 24 MGD
1992 – Lincoln Dallas Plant constructed to 9 MGD
1996 – Hampton Cove Plant constructed to 2 MGD
2001 – Southwest Plant expanded to 48 MGD
2008 – South Parkway Plant expanded to 48 MGD
2017 – Southeast Plant constructed 12 MGD
Water System Overview
Huntsville Utilities supplies drinking water to approximately 95,000 customers from both surface water and groundwater sources. Huntsville Utilities water treatment plants are operated and monitored 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. There are state certified operators continuously monitoring the quality of the water. The operators are certified by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and have to pass a nationally accredited exam and complete two years of training before they can operate a water treatment facility.
Huntsville Utilities is the billing agent for Madison County Water Department and City of New Hope.
Madison County Water Department
Madison City Water & Wastewater Board
Harvest Monrovia Water & Sewer Authority
City of New Hope
The City of Madison, Harvest-Monrovia, Owens Crossroads, Town of Triana, and Gurley bill separately for their water.
Where does our water come from?
HU supplies drinking water to approximately 95,000 customers from both surface and groundwater sources.
- Pumped from the Tennessee River
- Processed through the South Parkway, Southwest and Southeast Treatment Plants
- Supplied from the Lincoln and Dallas Well Treatment Plant and Williams Well.
- All groundwater wells produce water from limestone aquifers.
Water Quality Lab
Water quality tests and monitoring parameters are conducted on an hourly basis at a minimum. Testing includes but is not limited to chlorine residual, pH and turbidity. Other testing such as fluoride residual, alkalinity and carbon dioxide is conducted every 8 hours. To provide high quality, clean drinking water, the plant operators test or monitor for over 300,000 hourly and daily parameters each year.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Do you add fluoride to the water?
Yes. There is a City of Huntsville ordinance that requires the addition of fluoride to the city’s drinking water. Fluoride is added per the EPA and ADEM recommended guidelines.
2. What causes my water to be discolored?
While the water delivered to you is normally clear, occasional pressure changes, fire hydrant use and construction can cause discoloration (yellow or red tint) due to mineral sediments in water pipes. If you experience discolored water coming from your tap, first run your cold water tap for about five minutes. The discolored water will most likely clear up. If the discolored water does not clear up, please call the Water Quality Lab at (256) 650-6374.
Discolored water can be a result of older galvanized plumbing or can result from plumbing work or repairs.
3. Why are there particles in my water?
Black Particles: Are they throughout the house or only in one location? Check to see if there are braided metal lines going to the faucet. Certain brands have a rubber lining which can potentially degrade with age. Is there construction in the area? Reversal of flow or pressure fluctuation can cause particle problems. Allow a few hours for the particles to settle.
If the problem persists, please call the Water Quality Lab at (256) 650-6374.
White/Gray Particles: Typically these particles are calcium. Calcium can precipitate into a solid form at high temperatures. High temperature settings on your hot water heater will cause this to happen.
4. Why does the water look cloudy / milky?
Cloudy or milky looking water is an indication that there is air in the lines. This can happen in both hot and cold water after recent repairs are made. Get a sample of water in a glass and let it sit on the counter. The bubbles should dissipate in a few minutes. If it continues, run the cold water for several minutes.
5. I detect an odd taste or odor. Is it the water?
Huntsville Utilities feeds activated carbon during the summer months to neutralize any taste and odor problems that could occur. Low utilization, temperature, recent plumbing work and freezer contents can all have an influence on taste and odor.
If you experience a problem with the taste or odor of your water, let the cold water run for a few minutes to clear the lines, or fill a pitcher and allow it to sit for several hours in the refrigerator. If the problem persists, please call the Water Quality Lab at (256) 650-6374.
If you experience an odor problem with the water (especially if it is isolated to one source such as the kitchen sink or a bathroom) get a glass of water from the source that you are experiencing the problem with and take it outside to see if you still detect an odor. If not, the problem is not the water. It is most likely an issue with the plumbing (i.e. the vent pipe or p-trap).
6. Why does my hot water smell like rotten eggs?
If you notice an odor in the hot water, your water heater may need to be checked. Some water heaters have magnesium anodes to prevent corrosion that can cause an odor in tap water. Other odor sources may include food or a blockage in the drain or garbage disposal.
7. Why are there pink stains on my fixtures and drains?
The pink stains are usually caused by airborne microorganisms which settle and grow where there is constant moisture. The pink stains are “most likely from the environment and not the water supply” (reference: Water Quality Investigator’s Field Guide (2005) American Water Works Association). Regularly cleaning these areas will remove the stains.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What chemicals are in our water? What do you test for?
Huntsville Utilities tests for nearly 2,000 regulated and unregulated contaminants every year. The test results can be found in the yearly Water Quality Report as well as in Water Quality Annual Range Reports. Huntsville Utilities Water Quality Laboratory is state certified for the analysis of coliform bacteria in treated and untreated water. The lab analyzes a minimum of 188 coliform bacteria samples every month from our water sources and distribution system. The water quality lab also analyzes 285 coliform bacteria samples for nine neighboring water systems each month.
2. What is the pH of our water?
The pH of the water can range between 7.0 and 7.8 throughout the city. Huntsville Utilities feeds sodium hydroxide (caustic) to maintain at least a 7.0 pH. If you are interested in finding out the pH of your water, please call (256) 650-6374.
3. What is the hardness level? (For appliances)
Huntsville Utilities utilizes two different types of sources for drinking water. One source is surface water and the other source is groundwater. Several of the characteristics of these two sources are very similar but there is one characteristic in particular that tends to stand out the most and that is the hardness of the water. Surface water has a very low hardness level typically averaging 65 to 75mg/L while Huntsville’s groundwater sources have a hardness range of 160 to 170mg/L. Water with hardness levels in the 160 to 170mg/L range tends to precipitate out calcium when it interacts with heat (such as a water heater or dish washer). Huntsville Utilities treats the water with an ortho-polyphosphate that is formulated to sequester the calcium. The hardness of your water is going to vary depending on where you live. If you are interested in finding out the hardness of your water, please call (256) 650-6374.
Water Treatment Overview
How many stages are in the water treatment process?
Huntsville Utilities uses a conventional method to purify the water at the water treatment plants. The method is broken down into five steps: coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection. Below is a summary of each step.
- Coagulation – During the coagulation process, aluminum sulfate (alum), chlorine and sodium hydroxide are added to the water. When these chemicals are mixed in the water, it causes the suspended particles to stick together (coagulate) and form small particles.
- Flocculation – Large paddles in the flocculation basins slowly mix the chemicals and the water particles. The movement causes the particles to stick together and form larger, heavier particles called floc.
- Sedimentation – When the water leaves the flocculation basins, it goes into sedimentation basins. Here the floc settles to the bottom of the basin and is removed from the water. The clear water moves to filtration.
- Filtration – From the sedimentation basin, the water flows through filters. Filters are made of layers of anthracite (charcoal), sand and gravel. The filters are used to remove any remaining particles left in the water.
- Disinfection – After the filtration process, a small amount of chlorine is added to the water to maintain a disinfectant residual to keep it safe from microbial contamination as water is pumped through the distribution system.
- Three Surface Water Treatment Plants:
– South Parkway Plant – 48 MGD
– Southwest Plant – 48 MGD
– Southeast Plant – 12 MGD
- Ground Water Plants and Wells:
– Lincoln-Dallas Plant – 9 MGD
– Williams Well – 4.5 MGD
- Average daily pumpage is approximately 35 MGD or about 24,300 GPM (Gallons per Minute).
- Maximum day pumpage was 75 million gallons.
- Total Storage Capacity – 52 MGD.
- Over 1,000 miles of water mains.
Huntsville Utilities’ Award Winning Water System
HU is proud to supply our community with clean, safe drinking water. We have been recognized regionally and nationally with the following awards:
Huntsville Utilities Water System
- 1992 – EPA Region IV Award of Excellence
- 2006 – EPA Region IV Award of Excellence
- 2016 – AL/MS Section American Waterworks Association – Best Tasting Drinking Water Award
- 2017 – AL/MS Section American Waterworks Association – Best Tasting Drinking Water Award
- 2004 ADEM Optimized Plant Award
- 2008 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 30.1 MGD-40 MGD
- 2009 ADEM Optimized Plant Award
- 2011 CDC Water Fluoridation Award
- 2011 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50 MGD
- 2012 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50 MGD
- 2013 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50 MGD (3 year award)
- 2016 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50 MGD
- 2016 EPA/ADEM 5 Year Optimization Award
- 2016 CDC Water Fluoridation Award
- 2017 ADEM One Year Optimized Award
- 2017 CDC Water Quality Fluoridation Award
- 2017 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50 MGD
- 2018 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD-50MGD (3 year award)
- 2018 AL/MS AWWA Water Treatment Plant of the Year for Alabama
- 1991 – AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD – 50 MGD
- 1992 – AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD – 50 MGD
- 1993 – AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD – 50 MGD (3 year award)
- 1997 – AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/capacity 40.1 MGD – 50 MGD
- 2002 AWPCA Award of Excellence
- 2003 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2004 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2005 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD (3 year award)
- 2008 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2009 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2010 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD (3 year award)
- 2012 ADEM Optimized Plant Award
- 2013 AWPCA Award of Excellence
- 2014 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2015 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/ capacity 40.1-50 MGD
- 2016 ADEM Ten Year Optimization Award
- 2016 CDC Water Fluoridation Award
- 2017 AWPCA Award of Excellence
- 2017 ADEM Eleven Year Optimization Award
- 2017 CDC Water Quality Fluoridation Award
- 2018 AWPCA Award of Excellence
- 2000 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2001 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2004 AWPCA Award Of Excellent
- 2005 AWPCA Award Of Excellent
- 2006 AWPCA Award Of Excellent
- 2007 AWPCA Award Of Excellent
- 2008 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2009 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2009 CDC Water Fluoridation Quality Award
- 2010 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2011 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2012 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000 (3 year award)
- 2015 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2016 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000
- 2017 AWPCA Best Operated Plant w/population greater than 25,000 (3 year award)