Georgia Rivers

Quick Facts

·         Georgia has 14 river basins: the Altamaha, Chattahoochee, Coosa, Flint, Ochlockonee, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Ogeechee, Satilla, Savannah, Suwanee, St. Mary’s, Tallapoosa, and Tennessee.

·         The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Georgia has 44,056 miles of perennial streams, 23,906 miles of intermittent streams, and 603 miles of ditches and canals.

·         Georgia has 4.8 million acres of wetlands, 425,382 acres of public lakes and reservoirs, 854 square miles of estuaries, and 100 miles of coastline.


·         A “public water system” is a system which pipes water for human consumption and has at least 15 service connections or regularly serves at least 25 individuals 60 or more days out of the year.

o    Sources for public water systems include surface water pumped from rivers and creeks or ground water pumped to the surface from wells or naturally flowing from springs.

·         A “river basin” consists of the entire geographical area (hillside, valley, plain) from which water flows an intricate network of smaller rivers and streams into the primary river.

·         “Water consumption” means that water is being permanently withdrawn from its source because it has evaporated, been transpired by plants, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by people or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment.

·         “Water withdrawal” means that water is being diverted or withdrawn from a surface water or groundwater source.

o    “Surface water” is water on the surface of the planet such as in a stream, river, lake, wetland, or ocean.

o    “Groundwater” is water located beneath the earth’s surface in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.

o    As of 2013, the Georgia EPD had issued a total of 22,325 agricultural water withdrawal permits and 792 non-farm water withdrawal permits.

Geological History of Georgia

·         The state can be subdivided into five regions or provinces based on characteristic landforms, types and ages of rocks, and geologic structures.

o    These provinces are known as the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau.

o    Vegetation varies among these provinces and within them, depending on soil type, elevation, moisture and disturbances.

Biological Resources

·         It should come as no surprise that Georgia is a good place for fish, and for fishing. The cold, clear trout streams of the North Georgia mountains, the big, slow rivers below the Fall Line, and the rich coastal marshes make our fresh and salt waters rich in fish and aquatic life.  You can find more information about fish and other critters here:

River Uses

·         Municipal and Industrial Uses

o    Municipal and Industrial (M&I) water demands include public supplied needs such as residential, commercial, governmental, institutional, manufacturing, and other demands such as distribution system losses.

·         Agricultural Uses

o    The demands on water resources for agricultural activities includes irrigation for crops, nursery, and turf; drinking water for livestock and poultry; and, to a lesser extent, aquacultural activities.

Surface & Groundwater Sources

·         Populations in the northern part of Georgia rely heavily on surface water supplies, and populations south of the fall line rely mainly on groundwater supplies.

·         Both surface and groundwater sources are highly susceptible to contamination from runoff (known as nonpoint source pollution) from leaking landfills and underground storage tanks, as well as from industrial processes and waste management.

·         Some of the critical issues for the state's long-term supply of groundwater and surface water supplies include saltwater intrusion in the Floridian aquifer of coastal Georgia, the equitable allocation of water to Georgia’s interstate neighbors (including Alabama, Florida and South Carolina), and the growing demand on limited water resources in metropolitan Atlanta.

River Groups         

·         GRN has compiled a complete list of watershed groups in Georgia online:

Environmental Concerns

·         305(b)/303(d) Listings

o    Pursuant to section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, states are required to develop a list of impaired waters (i.e. those waters that do not meet water quality standards required to protect designated uses such as recreation, fishing, public water supply, etc.).

·         Fish Consumption Advisories

o    For a complete listing of fish consumption guidelines for the 14 river basins in Georgia, see EPD’s “Guidelines for Eating Fish from Georgia’s Waters” online:

·         NPDES Discharges

o    The Clean Water Act (CWA), the basic federal law designed to control water pollution in the United States, prohibits the discharge of any pollutant into waters of the United States except in compliance with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit issued pursuant to the CWA.