Water, Water Everywhere: Wild Ideas for Protecting a Vital Resource

October 9, 2015

Will we have enough clean water for the future of the Triangle? What can you do today to protect water quality and conserve water?

These are just two of the questions local experts and professionals will address at Triangle Land Conservancy’s free Wild Ideas for Clean Water event on Tuesday, October 27. Community members are invited to Research Triangle Park Headquarters starting at 5:30pm to learn about critical local water issues and discuss innovative solutions while also enjoying free food and beer.

Fishing the Little River

The Little River, a tributary of the Neuse River, originates near Youngsville in Franklin County and runs roughly 90 miles south to eventually join the Neuse near Goldsboro.

The Triangle Region is located in two watersheds: the Cape Fear River Basin (which contains Jordan Lake) and theNeuse River Basin (which contains Falls Lake). All of the area’s public water supplies are pulled from streams and reservoirs in those basins.

As one of the nation’s most desirable and rapidly growing areas, the Triangle is expected to triple its population in the next 50 years, which will significantly increase demand for clean drinking water. According to the Triangle J Council of Governments, the region will need an additional 95 million gallons per day of drinking water beyond current supplies to meet future needs.

“The Triangle Region will face some of the greatest water supply challenges in the state,” explained Mike Schlegel, featured event speaker and Program Manager for Water Resources with Triangle J. “But, we also have an unprecedented opportunity to work together as a region to meet those challenges.”

Population growth can help our region thrive, but it can also negatively impact water quality. New developments often replace natural landscapes with impervious surfaces like buildings and pavements. And as runoff increases, it carries with it pollutants like oil, fertilizer and pet waste.

“Even the way we care for our lawns and dispose of grass clippings can contribute to algae problems in our lakes,” added Schlegel. “I recommend checking out www.NCcleanwater.org for tips from the Sodfather.”

Brumley Forest Nature Preserve pond

Many conservation projects in the Triangle, including TLC’s Brumley Forest Nature Preserve pictured above, were made possible with support from UNCWI.

Local water managers are working on finding innovative solutions to these issues through conservation, interconnections, and collaborative planning between jurisdictions. One such initiative is the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative (UNCWI), a partnership between state, local, and federal government; private landowners; businesses; and conservation organizations, including land trusts like TLC.

UNCWI leverages land conservation as a cost-effective tool for protecting drinking water in the Triangle. Since 2006, over 66 miles of stream banks on 7,240 acres have been protected through the initiative.

“The UNCWI watershed protection program has become a national model for source water protection efforts,” revealed Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, TLC’s Associate Director of Conservation and Stewardship. “It provides a voluntary means to work with landowners to protect our waterways. These efforts are reducing nutrient contributions to our reservoirs and protecting forests, farms, and natural areas that have multiple public benefits for our region.”

Participants can learn more about this and other initiatives at Wild Ideas. In addition to Schlegel, the featured speakers are Laura Taylor, Director of the Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy at NC State University; Dale Threatt Taylor, District Director of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District; and Tony Reevy, local writer and Senior Associate Director of the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Following their presentations, speakers will taste-test water in an informal competition between local drinking water suppliers. Participants can sample different local water supplies for themselves during the event Expo from 7-8pm. The Expo will also feature other local nonprofits as well as free beer and food by Green Planet Catering.

Registration for this event is required and can be found online at www.triangleland.org/wildideas. Please contact Leigh Ann Hammerbacher at 919-908-0060 if you are interested in protecting your land or learning more about UNCWI.

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