How Much Water Does North Carolina Have?
Late last week Governor Bev Perdue signed House Bill 1743- River Basin Modeling into state law in North Carolina. This is a critical step forward in determining how we manage water here in NC. The bill requires that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) develops models for each of the 17 major river basins in NC. These models would have to determine what the ‘ecological flow’ within each of these basins would be. This is a pretty amazing measuring stick since ecological flows are the amount of clean water that must be left in a river to support its natural riverine life and the peaks and valleys of water moving through the river depending on the season and natural conditions. As this information becomes available we will be able to develop a permitting system that can actually determine when a water withdrawal will stop a river from having enough water and work to avoid that dilemma.
North Carolina is now one of only two states in the nation- aside from Alabama- that does not have a water withdrawal permitting system. We are now on track to developing one of the best in the country, a necessary step to protecting our environment, ensuring thriving communities and growing our economy. Assurable long term water supplies are the basis for all of it.
There were plenty of twists and turns as the legislation went from scientific proposal to enacted legislation. In the end, it was the sheer will of Sen. Daniel Clodfelter (D- Mecklenburg) that got it through the NC legislature and on to the desk of Gov. Perdue.
The next step is for DENR to develop accurate models for those 17 river basins that can inform the permitting process, hopefully those will begin rolling out in the next six months.