Downtown Atlanta water outage: A history of past water break emergencies (2024)

A water main break near Downtown Atlanta caused one of the more serious water service disruptions to face the city of Atlanta, but with the city’s old water and sewer infrastructure, it’s certainly not the first.

In recent years, boil water advisories have been common after water main breaks, and some outages have been traffic events, such as the sinkhole that swallowed an SUV near Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce last summer.

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And the recent voter renewal of the Atlanta sales tax for water and sewer came with a reminder the Municipal Optional Sales Tax, or MOST, first instituted in 2004, is used to fund water and sewer improvements ordered as a result of a federal lawsuit over water quality violations. DeKalb County, which has its own Watershed Department, has its own history of water infrastructure failures.

Here are some of the recent problems from water main breaks across metro Atlanta. It’s a selected list from many others.

July 2023: Sinkhole saga raises questions about city infrastructure. A massive sinkhole on Ponce de Leon Avenue swallowed up a car last Tuesday after a broken sewer pipe about 18 feet below the street caused the roadway to collapse. Luckily, the two passengers inside escaped without injury and city crews worked around the clock to fill the hole. But the newest sinkhole saga raises a flurry of questions about the state of Atlanta’s infrastructure, which already causes headaches for drivers trying to traverse the city’s beaten up roads. Read the full story

December 2022: Problems attributed to cold weather led to problems in four metro Atlanta counties. At least four metro Atlanta counties have issued boil water advisories after freezing cold temperatures over the weekend disrupted their water systems, with one planning to distribute bottled water to residents. Water issues were reported in Atlanta, Fulton County, DeKalb, Clayton and Forsyth. Read more.

June 2020: Boil water advisory followed water main break near Georgia Tech. A boil water advisory was needed in the city of Atlanta and South Fulton County after a water main break on Georgia Tech’s campus led to widespread outages. Read more

ExploreSite of 2023 Ponce sinkhole in Midtown Atlanta was once a landfill

February 2020: Portion of Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail closed for sinkhole repairs. The trail was closed just north of Krog Street Market and south of Montag Circle. The city’s Department of Watershed Management was called to assess the problem and determine what repairs were needed. Read more

March 2019: Massive water main break affects South Fulton County. Up to 100,000 water customers were under a boil water advisory after a water main break near Fairburn and Cascade roads. The outage affected water use in parts of Chattahoochee Hills, South Fulton, Union City and Fairburn. Read the full story. RELATED: Water users express frustration with the Atlanta Watershed response.

December 2018: Boil water advisory issued in city of Atlanta after problem at Hemphill water plant. Large parts of the city were without water Monday morning after an issue at an Atlanta water treatment plant and pumping station, officials said. The city said in a statement that due to a “control issue” at the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant and Pumping Station, areas had low pressure or no water. Read more.

December 2018 Atlanta water outage was linked to systemwide leaks. A water outage that disrupted Atlanta’s water system for more than a day has roots in a problem that has long bedeviled the city: How to stop water from leaking out of a decayed system? Read the full story

ExploreRemaking the Gulch: Big development project near State Farm Arena complicated by terra cotta pipes and old sewers

March 2018: 48-inch water main break near Buford Highway causes problems across DeKalb. Sometime around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, a four-foot water main broke near Buford Highway and I-285 in Doraville, creating a lake on one of metro Atlanta’s major arteries. Georgia’s fourth-largest county spent much of the day dealing with water outages and low pressure, not to mention concerns about sanitary conditions. Read more

May 2016: Power outage blamed on storms affected Atlanta water stations; boil water advisory issued. Major storms created electrical power outages, resulting in a temporary loss of pressure in the drinking water system at two pumping stations. A boil water advisory was issued for area that included downtown Atlanta and Avon Avenue to the south, Holtzclaw Street to the east and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard to the west. Read more

Downtown Atlanta water outage: A history of past water break emergencies (2024)


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