Programs / Franklin Drinking Water Issue

State Issues Stricter Permit to Franklin on Withdrawals from the Harpeth in June 2015

The TN Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), City of Franklin, and HRWA announced the issuance of a new state permit with tighter conditions on Franklin's withdrawal of water from the Harpeth.  This permit incorporates some key changes HRWA had recommended based on our analyses that will improve protection of the Harpeth and enable better science-based decisions. These include:

  • A new condition that prohibits withdrawals when dissolved oxygen levels in the river are below state standards
  • Establishing a monthly reporting system for compliance review 
  • Installing an accurate measuring system for the river's flow upstream of Franklin's pumps that we hope will be installed as close to August 1 as possible prior to summer low flows.  According to our review of 6 years of city documents provided by Franklin to HRWA,  the city was not basing its operations on a measure of the rivers' flow at the intake.  Instead the city was using river flow readings that are downstream from their withdrawal which TDEC had specifically stated needed to be resolved when the permit was first issued nearly 8 years ago.  (see formal complaint).

 (see joint press release).  

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HRWA Analysis 6 years of Franklin's Water Withdrawals Confirmed by TDEC

On December 11, the TN Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued a revision to its mid-November Commissioner’s Determination letter stating that it was in error and that the analysis provided by the Harpeth River Watershed Association (HRWA) was correctly based on the City of Franklin’s own data of daily amounts of water withdrawn from the Harpeth River.

HRWA is encouraged that TDEC recognized that HRWA’s six-year analysis provided important insight on the need to accurately measure the Harpeth River’s flow at the withdrawal point so that the City of Franklin can be confident they are operating in accordance with the permitted water withdraw limits.  

HRWA is also encouraged that with this communication TDEC also states that it will schedule a meeting with the City of Franklin, HRWA and the Southern Environmental Law Center to “clearly define the method for determining and reporting compliance with the permit limits.”  

“This is a very simple but important issue.  The City and the State need to know how much water is in the Harpeth at the point where the City withdraws … Period.” states Matt Dobson, President of HRWA’s Board of Directors.

press release here.  For documents, press continue reading.

Tenneessean/Williamson AM story, Dec. 31, 2014

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Biggest News This Year: TDEC Still Accepting Your Comments Until Nov. 3 on City of Franklin's Water Withdrawal Permit Application!

Your Voice Matters!
If you missed TDEC's public hearing, it's not too late to be heard. TDEC is accepting written comments until Monday, November 3rd. That means, even if you weren't able to attend the critical hearing last Tuesday, your voice can still countYou can submit your comments to Robert Baker with the State of Tennessee by e-mailing them to: 

HRWA comments here.    Dr. Wade Economic Analysis of Franklin Drinking Water here.
Please take a few minutes to submit a comment to TDEC and voice your opinion. Continue reading for list of the numerous issues involved.
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TDEC Holding Public Hearing on Franklin Withdrawal Permit Application on October 21st

Harpeth River Summer 2014 in low flow.

The City's permit application to withdraw water from the Harpeth is once again being reviewed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).  Last year, TDEC tightened restrictions on the percent of the river's flow that the City can withdraw after finding that the levels the City was withdrawing at are "typically found to cause significant ecological change."  TDEC found that a "reduction in the allowable rate of withdrawal is necessary for the protection and recovery of the use support for aquatic life."  There are better, more economic options than further degrading the Harpeth.  The City receives the majority of its water from other utilities, and receives all of its water from other utilities during summer months when the Harpeth's flow is too low.  Attend the October 21st public hearing and let TDEC know that any withdrawal permitted from the Harpeth MUST NOT CAUSE degradation of the river!  The public hearing will be held 5:30 PM on Tuesday, October 21st at the Police Department Community Room, 900 Columbia Avenue in Franklin.

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Drinking Water Issues In Franklin In Public Eye Again

The City of Franklin has made yet another attempt at gaining approval to build a new drinking water plant on the Harpeth River. This is the fourth attempt in the past decade.  This summer the state (TDEC) is re-evaluating the city's permit to withdraw water from the Harpeth.  Send TDEC,, an email by MONDAY, AUGUST, 18.  Request the state hold a public hearing so that everyone can learn and provide input on such an important decision for the health of the Harpeth as well as for city rate payers.

The Harpeth is too small to be a drinking water source in Franklin.  The city's reliable source of drinking water is from the Harpeth Valley Utilities District, the city's main source. The current little plant cannot operate at its design capacity now.  Analyses in 2006-7 showed that it was not cost effective to spend rate payer funds on a new drinking water plant on the Harpeth, much less build a BIGGER ONE.

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TDEC Issues tighter permit in 2013; HRWA and City of Franklin Appeal

The state, TDEC, recently revised the limits on the city for withdrawing water from the Harpeth.  The state permit lasts for 5 years.  During this review, the state reduced the percentage withdrawal from 20% to 15% based on updated scientific review of water withdrawals around the world.  In addition, the permit specifies measuring the river's flow before the intake, having that data available on the internet similar to the other gages on the river, and reporting the city's withdrawals monthly.    


UPDATE: In the spring of 2014 all parties agreed to dismiss the permit appeals. TDEC has started the process over as of July 2014, when they issued a public notice for comments on the city's old 2012 application.


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SUCCESS on the City of Franklin's drinking water permitting issue!!

On Wednesday, November 27, 2007 TDEC issued a permit to the City of Franklin that now governs its withdrawals of water for its drinking water plant. They city had proposed setting a base flow of 5 cfs (cubic feet per second) and withdrawal rate of 20% of the water from flows above that limit. This base flow was so low that TDEC determined that it would degrade the river and thus could not approve that proposal unless there was economic necessity. It is economically feasible for Franklin to receive all its water from HVUD (Harpeth Valley Utility District), therefore there is no economic necessity to approve degrading the river.




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