Michael Render, aka “Killer Mike,” has received his share of honors during an extensive career in music. None of them, however, compare to this.

“It's been the highlight of my year,” muses the Atlanta native and philanthropist. “I strut with a different step, knowing there's a drill named for me.” 

Getting the public involved

The 400-foot, $11 million machine is part of a $300 million project to drill a five-mile tunnel to the Chattahoochee River – the largest of its kind. Nowhere in the country has a utility been able to take a quarry so large and fill it with 2.4 billion gallons of water.

Flattered by the recognition, Render appreciates the big picture. “I’m hoping for the next hundred years our water is going to be clean and distributed equitably,” he says, “And that Atlanta will be an example for how to think in terms of what I can do today to help generations after me have clean water.

“I'm going to do my part by conserving water, using it wisely and valuing the clean water supply we have. I'm glad the administration in Atlanta has taken this issue seriously. Billions of people around the world don't have access to clean water.”

The name game

Lillian Govus, Director of Communications and Community Relations for the city of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, says “Driller Mike” was the top choice by voters in a recent contest.

“'By taking the naming of the tunnel boring machine to the community we involved them in the conversation about clean water, and the results were overwhelming.'”

“By taking the naming of the tunnel boring machine to the community,” she explains, “we involved them in the conversation about clean water, and the results were overwhelming. We had 30,000 visits to our website in four months, and more than 700 submissions for names. 

“Water is our most precious resource, and often infrastructure upgrades are invisible,” adds Govus, “With massive droughts and the threat to clean water supply, this was our opportunity to put infrastructure on the main stage.

Water powers the community

“As part of Atlanta’s most prestigious rap family, Mike represents part of our cultural tapestry. He’s also a small business owner in our city, and his business depends on clean water,” Govus says. And in that respect, Killer Mike is not alone. Govus goes on to explain the extent to which Atlanta’s economic vibrancy depends on access to water.

“Coca-Cola uses our water to make its syrups. The world’s busiest airport depends on our water to keep planes in the air. Modest estimates suggest a single day without water in Atlanta would cost the city $100 million. To that end,” she adds, “this project pays for itself in just three days.”

Moving forward

Crews have started tunneling, and expect to complete the full five miles by the end of next year: “We’re also blasting 400-foot deep shafts for the pump stations. It’s a 24/7-construction site, and we’re on track to have the supply filled in 2018.

“Once we’re done, the reservoir will become the centerpiece of what will be the largest park in Atlanta,” Govus says. “We’re already seeing tremendous revitalization in this area of the city.”

Adds Render, “Any kid that grows up in a city he loves would love to be remembered as a part of that city. In a small way, if I've become part of a bigger story in Atlanta, my life's mission has been accomplished.”