Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is Running Out of Water

the welcome to pigeon forge sign and douglas lake

Pigeon Forge ran out of water three times last year in 2023 (photos by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com and shutterstock)

How the tourist town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is running out of water and what the city is going to do about it

When you think of infrastructure issues in the Smokies Mountains you think about backed-up traffic clogging the arteries of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. But what if I told you city leaders are facing another challenge that is going to require a very expensive fix? According to multiple reports, three times last year the city of Pigeon Forge ran out of water and had to buy it from Sevierville. Pigeon Forge City leaders are working to address the issue before it becomes more serious. As someone who has lived in the area and reported on water issues for nearly 20 years, I can tell you it’s not time to panic. 

Three times during peak usage last year, Pigeon Forge’s people and businesses were using water more quickly than the city could supply. To meet the demand, the city had to buy water from Sevierville, a costly and temporary solution. With Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville all growing, there’s no guarantee that in the decades to come Sevierville would be in a position to share. 

Holiday Inn Pigeon Forge
There are 11 new hotels being constructed in Pigeon Forge at the time of this writing in addition to established lodging (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

The worst months for Pigeon Forge’s water supply

Yes. City officials indicate that the busiest weekends in Sevier County push Pigeon Forge’s current water facilities to the limit. The problem isn’t going to go away on its own. The long-term trend in the area points to more growth and more demand 

 “June, it starts getting close, and July is our peak season. So daily, we’re running at capacity. There’s another time in October,” said Kevin McMahan with the City of Pigeon Forge told “WVLT”.

“We have 11 hotels under construction right now just in the city limits. We’re hoping it will last another 25 years. We check trends and growth, but we sure are growing at a fast pace and Sevier County,” Pigeon Forge’s Mark Miller told the television station. 

Douglas Lake
A summer view of Douglas Lake, which is a Pigeon Forge water supply (photo by Irina Moss/shutterstock.com)

How did the shortage occur?

Luckily, the issue isn’t supply, at least not at the ultimate source. Thanks to the TVA there’s plenty of water for communities throughout East Tennessee. The problem is demand and also the infrastructure required for moving the high-quality H2O from Point A to Point B. 

City leaders told “WVLT” that 7.5 million gallons of water are pumped out of Douglas Lake every day to the Pigeon Forge Water Treatment facility. Pigeon Forge then provides that water to businesses and individuals in its city limits. And also to the City of Gatlinburg and in Sevier County.

When demand is at its peak, that 7.5 million gallons is cutting it too close. And while Sevierville has enough to share in the short term, buying the water from its neighbor isn’t a strong long-term plan.

sign to pigeon forge
Pumping water into the area is doable but will be a very costly endeavor (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

A clear but costly solution

There is a clear and costly solution. Pigeon Forge leaders are in the process of creating a new $50 million pumping station which should allow the city to meet demand for at least the next 25 years or so. The project – which is a co-effort between Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County – is also receiving support from the state. In 2023, TDEC announced roughly $11 million in grants to address regional drinking water needs. The project will add a raw water line to enhance the current capacity of the raw water system, enabling the region to match growth by improving the reliability and capacity of the regional water system. 

What about the river? The reservoir was built with plenty of capacity for the towns around the lake. This isn’t an Atlanta situation. 

At this time, there’s no need to panic. Pigeon Forge isn’t going to run dry anytime soon. Water, however, may be more costly when it must be purchased from a neighboring utility. As long as the plan to build the new pumping station moves forward on schedule, you’ll be able to drink and shower and more in Pigeon Forge for decades to come. 

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