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Case Studies :: Jordan Lake Rules :: Falls Lake Rules



Case Study: Falls Lake Rules


Falls_Lake_State_Park.png Photo Source: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fala/main.php
Falls Lake is the most important drinking water supply in the Raleigh area and is one of the Triangle’s principal reservoirs. It is located north of Raleigh and east of Durham in the Upper Neuse River Basin and extends across Durham, Wake and Granville Counties. Falls Lake has a 12,500 acre surface area, receives more than 750,000 visitors per year, and serves approximately half a million with drinking water. Created in 1983 by the Army Corps of Engineers, the lake is surrounded by 25,000 acres of public land with four public beaches.
With Durham (20% population increase since 2001) and Raleigh (40% population increase since 2001) its closest cities, Falls Lake is heavily impacted by urban and suburban sprawl. Watershed development has seriously degraded the lake. The main sources of point-source pollution (e.g. NPDES dischargers) and non-point pollution (e.g. stormwater runoff, septic tank effluent leachate) in Falls Lake are due to development of the watershed. In 2008, the NC Division of Water Quality designated the lake as impaired due to excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels
. During the summer of 2009, there were six beach closings due to high bacterial counts with E.coli and Enterocci levels well above state standards and potentially toxic cyanobacteria found throughout the reservoir.

Debate is on-going over who is responsible for cleaning Falls Lake. Two thirds of Durham County is found within the Falls Lake watershed however Falls Lake is the principal drinking water reservoir for Raleigh and most of Wake County (Durham gets its water from Lake Mitchie and Little River Reservoir). Over the next decade, Durham County projects they will have to pay $20 million but that the cost could go up to as much as $1 billion were it to upgrade their sewage treatment plant. Raleigh also faces serious future costs as well. If Falls Lake water quality doesn’t improve by 2016 it will require a $115 million upgrade to the city’s principle water treatment plant, as well as $200 million in other necessary improvements - principally due to higher treatment costs from increasing Total Organic Carbon (TOC) found in Falls Lake. Although phosphorus and nitrate levels are below the federal drinking water standards minimums and Falls Lake water is safe to drink, the federal Clean Water Act requires the state to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the lake because of its impaired condition.


Author Brunell Gugelmann, North Carolina State University :: 2010 April 27
Reviewers Tom Davis, Water Resources Coordinator, Orange County :: Amy Pickle, Duke University

Water Indicators
Fresh Water Supply :: Water Use
Water Pollution :: Miles of Impaired Streams :: Riparian Buffers :: Major Dischargers :: Groundwater
Case Studies :: Jordan Lake Rules :: Falls Lake Rules



Technical Notes:
Information for this section largely came from Falls Lake cleanup will be costly, contentious (News and Observer, March 2010)