The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
Thirteen years ago, a group of fast-growing Triangle-area towns led by Cary won state permission to withdraw as much as 24 million gallons of water a day from Jordan Lake.
This did not sit well with Fayetteville and others in this region, because the lake is a major source of water for the Cape Fear River. The state didn’t require Cary and the others to return the water to the Cape Fear. Instead, the treated wastewater was pumped into the Neuse River basin.
Cape Fear water users had battled hard against the diversion, seeing potential water shortages in the years ahead. This region made its point, and the state’s permission for the “interbasin transfer” came with a condition – the Triangle water users had to build a water-treatment plant that would return Jordan Lake water to the Cape Fear River.
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That plant, in New Hill, opened in August. It processes up to 18 million gallons of sewage a day and returns treated water to the Cape Fear in Chatham County. A second phase of construction will double its capacity by 2020.
But despite the new treatment plant, Cary, Apex and Wake County have filed a request to remove another 9 million gallons of water a day from the Cape Fear and return it to the Neuse.
We understand how Triangle cities might have difficulty keeping up with water demand. This is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, and the Triangle is the fastest-growing part of the state. That’s a recipe for a mighty thirst.
But communities along the Cape Fear – from Chatham County down to Wilmington – are growing, too. That’s especially true in Harnett County, whose water comes from the Cape Fear. So does the water for Lee, Cumberland and other counties downstream. While we’ve weathered recent drought years without our faucets running dry, we’re wary of a request to divert even more water out of the river and not returning it. So is the Fayetteville Public Works Commission’s water-resources chief, Mick Noland, who has asked water-supply experts to analyze the transfer request. The answers will come early next year.
The entire notion of an interbasin water transfer is troubling. It’s a bad management concept for an increasingly precious commodity.
We hope Cumberland County’s legislative delegation – and indeed all the lawmakers from the Cape Fear region – will study this transfer request and make sure it poses no threat to our own water supply. Our ability to grow and prosper can’t be held hostage by any other region.
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