Are we running out of water?
In the winter of 2007-08, eastern Wake County, including Raleigh, nearly ran out of water. Due to the geography and geology of the Piedmont region – even with good average rainfall – we have low water resilience. Water does not last because of small streams, permeable soils, and little freshwater storage capacity. Changing weather patterns (due to global climate change or natural circumstances) can quickly reduce area rainfall, leaving us in the Piedmont at serious risk. Wake’s population is due to double to 1.2 million by 2030, further challenging water supply. State and local government should act with an eye to the future, taking the critical steps in water conservation and efficiency, land use planning, regulations to ensure an adequate, clean supply of water for us today and tomorrow. Plentiful, clean water is among the assets that will help keep Wake County healthy and competitive for the future.
Where does your drinking water come from?
The majority of Wake County residents get their water from Falls Lake and Jordan Lake, which were created for flood control, recreation, wildlife habitat, and drinking water. Man-made reservoirs like Falls Lake rely largely on local rainfall to maintain adequate lake levels for municipal water supply, and to provide sufficient river flows downstream. Falls and Jordan Lakes are polluted and are filling up with sediment, as a result of development, agriculture and more.
Is your drinking water in danger?
In addition to water quantity, water quality is a significant concern for Wake County’s water supply. Stormwater contamination from automobile fluids (such as oil, gasoline, and antifreeze), pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, pet waste, and litter, as well as point source discharges from sewage treatment plants and industry, pollutes our local water supplies.
The situation is getting worse as development in the watersheds increases the amount of urban, road, and agricultural runoff into streams feeding the reservoirs. Polluted water is more costly to treat for drinking, as it requires increasing amounts of chemicals to make the water potable. Wastewater discharges and contaminated stormwater runoff have resulted in both Falls Lake and Jordan Lake being added to North Carolina’s list of impaired waters. Solutions to water challenges WakeUP advocates for long-term water supply planning, year-round water conservation measures, rainwater capture and other water efficiencies, and a fair way to pay for the high costs of future infrastructure needed for water supply and water and wastewater treatment. New development and those moving here should pay their fair share for these infrastructure expenses.
Where do we go from here?
As we mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of the clean water act we can celebrate many accomplishments in making our water safer and healthier for all, but there is still so much that can be done to promote a better future. Read Bill Holman’s editorial on the progress we’ve made in the last 40 years and the progress still to come!