Birmingham Water Works

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The Birmingham Water Works is a public utility supplying drinking water to 750,000 customers in Birmingham, most of Jefferson County and parts of four other counties. The system, established in 1951, delivers 100 million gallons of water per day over 3,858 miles of main pipes. It has been recognized as one of the top five water systems in the United States and rates consistently high in water quality.

From the 1950s until 2017 the Water Works also collected payments for sewer fees under contract to the Jefferson County Sewer System.

Birmingham Water Works acquired the water system developed by the city of Moody in St Clair County in 1992. The Birmingham Water Works began operating under an independent board in 2001, and since that time water service rates have doubled. The growing reputation for misuse of funds and the awarding of non-competitive contracts led to efforts in the Alabama State Legislature to "reform" the board in 2016. Representative Paul DeMarco and State Senator Jabo Waggoner sponsored controversial legislation, which was debated at length before a compromise version was passed and signed by Governor Robert Bentley in May 2016. The current board chairman, appointed in 2015, is Ronald Mims and the general manager is Mac Underwood.

Until 2009 the Water Works owned 3,200 acres of undeveloped property bordering the Locust Fork River in anticipation of constructing a reservoir. The board determined that the project was not feasible and sold the land for $4.5 million to Jeffrey Palmer. Palmer made a $500,000 donation to the H2O Foundation and agreed to accept contract stipulations preventing clear-cutting, coal-mining, landfills and hazardous waste storage. He agreed to maintain a 50-foot buffer around all tributaries on the land and also indicated he would create a conservation easement on the land abutting the river.

On February 12, 2009 the board approved a $329 million expansion plan to cover capital projects over the next 12-15 years. The plan called for a new pump station on the Black Warrior River, about three miles south of Bankhead Lock and Dam, and two pipelines, adding 60 million gallons per day to the system's capacity. The expansion was proposed to accommodate projected demand through 2075. At the same time, the system began a switch-over to SAP enterprise application software, the implementation of which cost more than $10 million and was still causing major problems when it was applied to customer billing in 2017.

In 2010 the Board hired Raftelis Financial Consultants to report on the feasibility of the system acquiring the Jefferson County Sewer System out of a possible bankruptcy. The report recommended against the purchase, concluding that rates would have to be increased too much to be worthwhile. Four years later it asked Raftelis to evaluate a proposal to sell off the Moody water system.

In 2011 the utility approved the first of several bids to replace aging water mains throughout its service area.


As of January 2017, the Birmingham Water Works Board consists of nine members, who can serve no more than two four-year terms. Six of the members are appointed by the Birmingham City Council, one by the Jefferson County Mayor's Association, one by the Shelby County Commission and one by the Blount County Commission.

From the time the independent board was created in 2001 until it was modified by the Alabama State Legislature in 2016, the board had five members which were appointed to staggered six-year terms by the Birmingham City Council.


  • Brenda Dickerson, appointed by the Birmingham City Council
  • William Muhammad, reappointed by the Birmingham City Council
  • George Munchus, reappointed by the Birmingham City Council
  • Ron Mims, reappointed by the Birmingham City Council
  • , appointed by the Jefferson County Mayor's Association
  • , appointed by the Shelby County Commission
  • , appointed by the Blount County Commission


Water sources

Black Warrior Basin

Cahaba Basin



  • "Water Works Board approves $90 million bond sale for capital projects" (April 5, 2006) Birmingham Business Journal
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (February 13, 2008) "Birmingham, Alabama Water Works Board approves $239 million plan to extend capacity." The Birmingham News
  • Spencer, Thomas (August 21, 2009) "Birmingham Water Works Board votes to sell its 3,200 acres on the Locust Fork River to Tuscaloosa businessman Jeffrey Todd Palmer in a $5 million deal." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (January 22, 2010) "Coup topples Water Works duo." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (October 21, 2010) "Birmingham Water Works study rules out plan to buy sewer." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (March 14, 2011) "Major pipe replacement project begun by Birmingham Water Works." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (August 14, 2013) "Birmingham Water Works employees shine light in ugly places." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (February 28, 2014) "Birmingham Water Works Board spending up to $58,000 to study selling Moody water system, more analyses also needed." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (May 14, 2015) "Birmingham Water Works changes take effect today following governor's signing of legislation." The Birmingham News
  • Faulk, Kent (December 11, 2015) "Birmingham Water Works fires lawyer after three decades, millions of dollars." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (February 8, 2017) "Water Works spends millions, enrages customers, finally admits 'issues'." The Birmingham News

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