Discover Georgia’s Most Polluted Lake (And What Lives In It)

People rely on nearby rivers and lakes more than they realize. Many of these bodies of water serve as a source of drinking water and sanitation for millions of people. However, some of these water bodies are being polluted by human activities such as agricultural runoff and sanitation. While Georgia may not have had as much industry as the mid-Atlantic region, the state still has a pollution problem. Learn about the most polluted lake in Georgia, where it is, what lives there, and how it got polluted.

What is the Most Polluted Lake in Georgia?

Lake Lanier is considered the most polluted lake in the state of Georgia.

©Brett Barnhill/

The most polluted lake in Georgia is Lake Lanier. This may come as a surprise, but it doesn’t have to be, given that Lake Lanier ranks among the top ten most polluted lakes in the United States.

Lake Lanier is officially called Lake Sidney Lanier and is a well-known body of water in the state. The reservoir is located in Gwinnett County, a northern part of the state. The lake has an area of ​​approximately 59 square miles and hundreds of kilometers of shoreline.

The lake was formed following the construction of Buford Dam along the Chattahoochee River, a project completed in 1956. The government ordered the creation of the lake for water supply and flood control.

Lake Lanier has been named one of the most polluted lakes in Georgia for decades. A report published in 1991 found that the lake was inundated with phosphorus, nitrogen, and other oxygen-intensive pollutants.

In recent years, Lake Lanier has been included in the Georgia Water Coalition’s Dirty Dozen. This list refers to the state’s water bodies that have been most affected by underfunding from state environmental agencies.

The lake has a problem with algae from time to time. In addition, the lake is constantly polluted by sewage from houses and farms. In addition, the lake suffers from the effects of sewage discharge. In 2021, pollution of the lake caused algal blooms that caused the lake’s water, including the drinking water it supplies, to have an odd smell and taste. These problems continue to plague parts of the lake year after year.

Measures to combat pollution in Lake Lanier

A seed and fertilizer spreader stands on a lawnUsing excessive fertilizer or applying product before rain can increase Lake Lanier pollution.


Several government organizations are committed to taking action to reduce pollution of Lake Lanier’s waters. For example, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is a group that uses water monitoring, education and advocacy to reduce the impact of pollution in this body of water.

The organization also helps coordinate clean-up efforts in the Lake Lanier area and uses the law to stop polluters. One of the most important tasks of these groups is to identify sources of pollution and report them.

The most common sources of pollution in the region include fertilizer runoff from residential areas, sewage treatment plant overflows, irresponsible disposal, and dumping of oil and grease into sewers.

Monitoring the water and advocating for change has resulted in better outcomes in the lake.

What animals live in Georgia’s most polluted lake?

A man wearing waist-high waders, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a ball cap is seen holding a giant silverfish between some rocks at the edge of a somewhat deep body of water.  dark green.  The reel can be seen behind the angler's face.In terms of diet, the striped bass feed on a wide variety of prey including other fish, squid, and crustaceans.


Although Lake Lanier is the most polluted lake in Georgia, several animals live in and near the water. Fish that live in Lake Lanier include:

These are just some of the fish that live in the lake. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular fishing destination across the state. Most people come to Lake Lanier for the striped bass and largemouth bass. In fact, the largest striped bass ever pulled from Lake Lanier waters weighed a whopping 47 pounds! Still, people going to the lake need to understand local fishing laws and rules. This may require fishermen to obtain a license before heading out to the lake.

In addition to the fish in the water, many other creatures live near the lake. For example, you’ll likely find:

  • frogs
  • toads
  • salamander
  • Common black rat snakes
  • Rabbits
  • Wild Turkeys

Some venomous snakes can be encountered in North Georgia, including copperhead snakes. Good protection from snakes by keeping a wide berth around the snakes is something everyone should strive for when visiting the area.

Sometimes people worry about one particular animal in this region: alligators. Luckily alligators don’t usually live in Lake Lanier. However, alligators are sometimes spotted in the area, but this is very rare. So it’s best to keep an eye out, just in case.

Can you swim in Lake Lanier?

Friends have fun and enjoy a summer day swimming and jumping at the lake.Lake Lanier is a very popular swimming spot.

©Zoran Zeremski/

Yes, people go swimming in Lake Lanier all the time, even though it’s the most polluted lake in Georgia. However, swimming is not always recommended in every place. Most people go swimming at the designated beaches at Lake Lanier. However, some establishments along the lake shore have banned bathing for safety reasons.

One of the reasons people may not want to swim in the waters of Lake Lanier is the pollution that occurs after heavy rains. Too much water brings with it bacteria and other pollutants from the environment.

The Chattahoochee Riverkeepers test the water for bacteria to ensure swimmer safety. From time to time, their findings lead to a no-bathing warning. However, the lake is mostly available to people for swimming, boating, fishing, and other activities on the shores.

Although Lake Lanier is said to be the most polluted lake in Georgia, it is still a place that people like to use for recreation. It is a place where people can swim, fish, boat and more. However, it is up to the businesses and people who live in the area to ensure that the lake stays on the path of cleanliness.

Reducing the use of lawn fertilizer, maintaining a good sewage system, reporting violations of the law on disposal, and other measures can help ensure the lake is useful to people in the future. This way, generations of fishermen and swimmers can enjoy the water. Most importantly, the lake could one day lose the title of the most polluted lake in the state!