Falls Lake is a tremendous asset to the Triangle region. Although this man-made lake was constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect downstream areas from flood damage, it also serves as a drinking water reservoir, a place of recreation and relaxation, and provides habitat for fish and wildlife.
Today’s water quality successfully supports the lake’s uses. However, the amount of chlorophyll-a measured in the water has exceeded the state’s standards in some locations. As a result, portions of the lake were placed on the State’s list of impaired waters in 2008.
When nutrient pollution becomes too severe, the consequences can be serious. Algal blooms can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water and suffocate fish. Some types of algae create toxins and promote bacterial growth that can make people who come into contact with polluted water sick, while other types may cause taste and odor problems or increase the cost of treating the water for drinking.
Fortunately, these problems have not been observed in Falls Lake. While some parts of the lake have seen chlorophyll-a levels above the State’s thresholds, they have not caused significant taste or odor problems for the region’s drinking water.
Instead, today’s nutrient levels support a safe water supply, pleasant recreation, and healthy wildlife — and water quality continues to improve. The UNRBA is committed to keeping it that way, and we need a sustainable regulatory framework to help.
Today’s Regulatory Framework
A set of water quality regulations known as the Falls Lake Nutrient Management Strategy and Rules was adopted by the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission in 2010 to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that enter Falls Lake through its tributary rivers.
New and existing development, agricultural production, roadways, public facilities, and wastewater treatment discharge all contribute to nutrient pollution, and they are all regulated by the nutrient reduction framework.