The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
A report issued last week by the Brookings Institution put Raleigh on the list of the 50 fastest-growing economies in the world. It was one of only four American cities on the list, just behind Austin and Houston, Texas, and ahead of Fresno, California.
Economic growth means population growth. The entire Triangle region is splitting its seams, leaving communities scrambling to provide basic services for all those new houses and apartment complexes. One of the biggest challenges is finding enough water.
That’s why officials from Cary, Apex, Morrisville and Wake County were in Fayetteville last week. They want to take 9 million gallons of water a day out of the Cape Fear River basin, but they don’t want to put it back. Easier and cheaper, they say, to treat it and put it into the Neuse basin instead. They already are allowed to take 24 million gallons a day out of the Haw River, one of the sources of the Cape Fear.
Triangle officials were the only ones testifying in favor of the interbasin transfer at the Fayetteville hearing on their request.
State Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, told officials of the Environmental Management Commission that the Cape Fear basin is already ranked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as one of the most endangered in the state. “It strikes me as fairly absurd to suggest that this diversion of this water can have no effect ecologically downstream, when the department has already indicated it’s in jeopardy given the current situation,” he said.
Glazier was one of a dozen from this area who spoke out against the additional withdrawal.
Cary asked for an increase in its interbasin transfer limit back in 2001, and the state rejected the request. Instead, the town had to build a $300 million sewage-treatment plant so it could return Cape Fear water to the basin where it belongs.
But now Cary and its neighbors don’t want to use the new plant, which opened last year, because it’s still cheaper and easier to dump the treated water into the Neuse.
Meanwhile, water plants along the Cape Fear, from Chatham County down to Wilmington, are facing increasing demand because they’re growing too. And water quality in the basin is poor. Withdrawing more water from the basin will only concentrate that pollution.
The interbasin transfer was a bad idea 15 years ago, and it’s still a bad idea today.