The UNRBA is working with partners across the basin and the State of North Carolina to lead a multi-year project to reexamine Stage II of the Falls Lake Nutrient Management Strategy. Revisiting and improving Stage II of the strategy is important. As written, Stage II creates unnecessary stumbling blocks to future water quality improvements. The revision process will allow us to take advantage of insights from new data and “lessons learned” to hone our tools, techniques, and approaches over time.

The Challenge

Constructing a dam to hold back a river in North Carolina’s fertile piedmont region creates a natural challenge
for nutrient management. It becomes even more difficult as human population grows and land uses change.

Success will require diverse partners to maximize the results they can achieve with the resources they have. A successful, sustainable water quality management strategy will balance science, policy, and financial investment.

Today’s rules will not get us there.

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Today’s Stage II does not chart a financially sustainable path forward. The State of North Carolina estimates that Stage II would cost cities, towns, counties, and residents of the Basin over $1 billion to implement. More recent estimates suggest that this figure is probably too low. [1]


According to a 2013 evaluation, each household in the watershed would have to contribute $1,400 per year to fund the kind of actions necessary to pursue the Stage II goals. That’s over $1,600 per household each year in 2018 dollars. The U.S. EPA’s tools for evaluating financial burdens to communities categorizes this as a large financial impact. [2]

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Falls Lake already provides safe drinking water, supports a healthy fishery, and provides pleasant recreation with today’s water quality. The extreme price tag associated with the Stage II requirements may only produce minor improvements on the ground.


Work by our expert consultants suggests that the Stage II requirements are not actually achievable. Studies indicate that no existing technology is capable of reducing phosphorus loading from existing development by 77 percent compared to 2006 levels. To achieve the 40 percent reduction goal for nitrogen, every acre of existing development in the watershed would have to be retrofitted with a limited set of nutrient control measures. In many cases, on-the-ground site constraints rule those options out.

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Our water is our future, and we must protect it.

How will we develop a better nutrient management strategy?

  • We will continue to reach out to local governments, agricultural representatives, other regulated entities, environmental groups, community advocates, developers, and others. We believe that broad participation by and cooperation among regulated entities and other stakeholders defines the best path toward a workable solution – one that is acceptable to all stakeholders, protective of the Lake, and mindful of technical and financial constraints.

  • We will use the results of our water quality monitoring and modeling to create science-based decision-making tools that will help us to evaluate and compare the ideas and strategies that our partners and stakeholders propose.

  • We will continue to host stakeholder meetings twice per year for our water quality modeling project to seek specific feedback on the assumptions the model makes and next steps in its development. We will also continue to seek input from stakeholders throughout the reexamination process during meetings and through this website.


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