Next month, the Monroe Utilities System, which supplies water and wastewater treatment for most of Walton County, will open the $12 million expansion of its 90-year-old water treatment plant.
Originally built in the teens, the plant was last upgraded in the1930s.
The new plant will increase the system's capacity from 6 million to 10 million gallons per day employing new filtering technology designed to protect the drinking water supply from possible upstream pollutants.
Most of the county's water supply comes from the Alcovy River that also flows through fast-growing Gwinnett County.
Using special high-tech membranes instead of the traditional sand filters, the new water filtering system was approved for use after a three-month trial period, according to Wiedeman and Singleton, the system's design firm. The membrane system is the first of its type in Georgia.
With federal drinking-water standards about to become more stringent, many water systems are looking for new technologies to meet them.
"Right now, we have all [the water] we need, but you know what's happening in Gwinnett, Rockdale and DeKalb counties," said Wallace Beall, a Monroe city councilman and a member of the utilities board. "We're getting ready for it."
Monroe is halfway between Atlanta and Athens, east of Conyers, southeast of Lawrenceville and northeast of Covington. Its location puts it directly in the path of development pushing out from Athens as well as from Atlanta.
Between 1990 and 2000, Walton County's population increased more than 57 percent. In the past year, the high pace of growth has continued, logging a 7.5 percent increase in the past year to reach more than 65,000 people, according to the U.S. Census estimates.
"We're experiencing what Gwinnett County went through 20 years ago," Beall said.
Monroe Utilities also completed a $1 million upgrade of its wastewater treatment plant last year.