Jordan Lake, located in the Cape Fear River Basin, is the water supply source for western Wake County residents, serving the communities of Cary, Apex and Morrisville, as well as the Research Triangle Park. Like Wake County, Chatham, Durham, and Harnett Counties, which lie within the Cape Fear River Basin, are also experiencing dramatic growth. Chatham County, in which most of Jordan Lake situated, is one of the fastest growing counties in the state.
Population and economic growth in the Jordan Lake watershed further threaten the ability of the lake to support its designated uses as a regional drinking water supply, recreational resource, and aquatic habitat due to increases in nutrient loads that result from that growth. Jordan Lake was added to the federal list of “impaired waters” in 2002, due to high levels of chlorophyll a and high alkalinity. This designation under the Clean Water Act requires the state Division of Water Quality to prepare a plan to restore the lake’s health by reducing pollution from contributing sources. Thus the state began the process of developing the Jordan Lake rules, involving stakeholders in more than 30 meetings over three years to consider their concerns.
After repeated delays, the Environmental Review Commission approved the rules in May 2008, and the Rules Review Commission (RRC) passed them in November of the same year. When the Jordan Lake rules reached the General Assembly for approval in 2009, several bills were introduced to overturn them, largely out of concern for the cost to upstream municipalities of enacting some of the provisions.