Named for Georgia poet and musician Sidney Lanier, Lake Lanier was created in the 1950s when the United States Army Corps of Engineers built Buford Dam for purposes that included flood control, power generation, and recreation. It is the primary source of water for Gwinnett County.
The lake has 692 miles of shoreline and is 26 miles long, covering almost 47 miles of the original riverbed. At the dam, the lake is more than 200 feet deep.
Lake Lanier is considered full when its surface reaches 1,071 feet above sea level. The current lake level normally rises during the winter and early spring and falls during the hot summer months. The Corps of Engineers releases a weekly average of about 4.9 billion gallons per day from Buford Dam for power generation and to maintain water flow in the Chattahoochee River for downstream users and endangered species habitat.
In contrast, Gwinnett County draws an average of 65 million gallons per day from Lake Lanier to provide the public water supply for its businesses and roughly 800,000 residents. Over the years, County water and policy leaders have put a great deal of effort into planning for the best use of our precious lake resource to meet our water needs.
A three-year drought (2007 - 2009) focused attention on efforts to make the best possible use of our available water resources. Dry weather cycles come and go and can be managed with conservation practices. Gwinnett County encourages conservation by following the state's lead concerning water restrictions on indoor and outdoor water use. Gwinnett's average water use per person started declining in 2001 even though the population continued to grow. Increased public awareness and conservation measures have helped conserve precious water. Average rainfall in our region will continue to vary from year to year, but water conservation measures should be maintained regardless of current climate trends.
As a recreation resource, Lake Lanier attracts about eight million visitors a year, with 68 parks and recreation areas, 1,200 campsites, and 10 full-service marinas. The annual economic impact was estimated at $5.5 billion by the Marine Trade Association of Metropolitan Atlanta in 2000. The Corps has generated more than $97 million worth of electricity at Buford Dam since 1957.
Total cost to create the lake was about $45 million, including buying 50,000 acres at an average of $50 per acre, beginning in 1948. The government moved 250 families, 20 cemeteries, 15 businesses, and six churches to make room for the lake. Flooded areas included Lake Warner, Chattahoochee Park, and Looper Speedway.