Columbia Water Sources & Water Works System

Columbia gets its water from the Broad River Diversion Canal (Canal) and Lake Murray (Lake). The Broad River collects water from a large portion of northern South Carolina through the Broad River Basin while Lake Murray receives water from the Saluda River Basin. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) periodically assess the quality of source water for drinking water systems throughout the state. SC DHEC's Source Water Assessment Report is available and can be reviewed at 1136 Washington Street, or by contacting (803) 545 3400.

Some interesting facts about the City of Columbia's service area:

  • Together, the two plants produce an average of 60 million gallons of water per day
  • The City serves approximately 375,000 customers in Richland and Lexington Counties.
  • The City has more than 2,400 miles of underground pipeline.
  • The City controls the pumps and tank levels all over the distribution system through remote signals from the water plants.
Approximate Columbia Water Service Area Map

Approximate Columbia Water Service Area Map

The Water Treatment Process

The City of Columbia uses a series of treatment techniques to produce potable (drinkable) water.

1 Raw Water Intake
As water is pumped into the treatment plants, intake areas screen out floating debris.

2 Pre-Treatment
Aluminum sulfate (alum) and other additives are rapidly mixed into the water to help particles in the water cling together (coagulate) and form heavier particles, referred to as floc.

3 Coagulation/ Flocculation
The water mixture is then gently agitated so that the coagulating particles continue to merge into larger floc particles.

4 Sedimentation
These floc particles pass into a sedimentation basin where they settle to the bottom and are eventually disposed of.

5 Filtration
The clear water is taken from the top of the sedimentation basin and flows to the filters. Filtration removes any remaining particles. The water passes through filters containing layers of sand and anthracite coal. Small floc particles cling to filter material as water passes through.

6 Post Treatment Storage
After all particles have been removed, a small amount of disinfectant is added to the water to keep bacteria from developing as it travels to your home or business. A small amount of fluoride is also added to the water to assist in preventing tooth decay. Finally a small amount of corrosion control chemical called orthophosphate is added to control lead and copper corrosion in the distribution pipes and in the privately owned pipes that lead to homes or businesses.

7 High Service
Treated water is finally pumped to our customers at a pressure ranging from 80 to 125 PSI (pounds per square inch).

The Water Treatment Process

The Water Treatment Process

Water Works History


Columbia's water system dates back to the early 1800s. Empowered by an act of the state legislature in 1818, lawyer and part-time school teacher Colonel Abram Blanding was contracted to finance and construct the town's first water system.

Springs in Seaboard Park, now known as Finlay Park, were originally used as a water source. The water was drawn from reservoirs by a steam pumping engine, shipped from England in 1820, and was then distributed through cast iron and lead pipes along streets now known as Main, Elmwood, Senate, Sumter, Marion, Bull and Taylor.

Colonel Blanding operated the water system for 15 years as Columbia's population grew to about 3,800. However, the system never proved financially successful, and Blanding sold it to the town in 1835.

During the 1850s, the City began supplementing the springs with river water and constructed a brick reservoir near Arsenal Hill. Although the original pumping plant was later moved down the valley to pick up additional springs, it was not until 1890 that the State Legislature authorized funding to build a new plant supplied by the Broad River (River). This new plant was located on the embankment between the Columbia Canal and the River and completed in 1895. It lifted water from the River by means of water-powered centrifugal pumps, through tub filters, without sediment coagulation. Little was known about water purification at this time. As turbidity in the River increased, the filters were quickly overwhelmed. They were soon abandoned and the turbid River water was pumped directly to customers, sediment and all.

City of Columbia Water Works - 1859-1887

City of Columbia Water Works - 1859-1887


A postcard of the Columbia Canal Water Works circa 1906

A postcard of the Columbia Canal Water Works circa 1906

In 1903, Columbia City Council passed an ordinance creating the Commission of Water and Water Works. Its mission was to ensure that the City of Columbia would have access to a plentiful supply of water. The Commission oversaw the construction of the region's first "modern" water treatment plant. It was called the Columbia Broad River Canal Water Treatment Plant and went into operation in 1906 with a pumping capacity of six (6) million gallons per day (mgd).

To meet growing needs of Columbia and the surrounding area, the Lake Murray Water plant was added to the water system in 1983.


Today's Columbia Canal Water Works

Today's Columbia Canal Water Works

Since those early years, the Columbia Water Works has been expanded many times to meet the ever-increasing water needs of Columbia and its surrounding areas. Today the Canal facility has a rated capacity of 84 million gallons per day. The Canal Water Treatment Plant also includes a certified laboratory where over 200,000 samples are tested each year. Over the last two decades considerable investment has been made to modernize the facilities, replace aging equipment, and ensure compliance with ever tightening regulatory standards.

The Lake Murray facility currently pumps and average of 30 million gallons a day with capacity of 75 million gallons per day. This means that the city of Columbia will be able to provide approximately 159 million gallons of clean water to all of its customers, creating additional capacity for the projected growth of the area in to the 21st century.


1136 Washington St.
Columbia, SC 29201


(803) 545 3300
24 hours a day
7 days a week