Beat The Rap

Atlanta is making major investments to shore up the city's water supply. Michael Price, associate professor of economics, tells us what's going on.

Why are we spending $800 million to build a 2.4-billion-gallon reservoir?

The main reason for building any reservoir is to provide insurance against droughts and other unpredictable disruptions to water supplies. In these instances, individuals would have limited or no access to clean drinking water without the reservoir. But with the reservoir, the city will have an alternate source to provide water to our residents and businesses. Think of a reservoir as being like the bottled water and bread that everyone ran out and bought in advance of our last “Snowmageddon.”

PrintIf the storm knocked out our power, caused our pipes to freeze or burst, and left roads unsafe for travels, we want to have a source of food, the bread, to eat and water to drink. Now in most instances, the storm does not cause our pipes to break and leave roads unsafe to drive for days, so we don’t actually need the bread and water we all rushed out to buy the day before the storm. Even so, it is rational for us to have purchased the emergency supplies so that we have the basic necessities to survive in the rare chance that the storm does lead to our pipes bursting and an inability to get to a store for a couple of days.

It’s going to cost $300 million to dig the tunnel?

They’re drilling through five miles of granite to convert the former Bellwood Quarry into the reservoir. I’m not an engineer, so I don’t feel qualified to talk about the dangers of drilling under a city, but I can only imagine the thrill of operating a $11.6 million, 400-foot machine with a 12-foot rotating diamond drill head. These guys are the real-life counterparts to Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck in “Armageddon.”

It’s a really big reservoir!

As for the size of the reservoir, I can only speculate, but bet is has something to do with the city wanting to set Atlanta apart by building something that is bigger and better than anywhere else. Once completed, the Bellwood Quarry Reservoir will give Atlanta the largest municipal water reserves in the country.

What do you think of the drill’s name?

I love “Driller Mike.” It connects the project to Atlanta and its residents, and it is a great tribute to Michael Render, the local hero and hip hop legend — one of the great pioneers and leaders of Atlanta’s rap community. That said, I was a bit disappointed when I read that the list of finalists did not include any references to “The Hunger Games” or “The Walking Dead” since both have shot scenes at Bellwood Quarry.