Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

North Carolina Pollution Assessment & Prevention

While significant progress has been made in reducing water pollution caused by point sources since the Clean Water Act was passed over 20 years ago, much work remains to be done to reduce nonpoint source pollutants that impair the quality of streams, rivers, lakes, ground water, and other bodies of water throughout the country.

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A point source is a single, identifiable source of pollution, such as a pipe through which factories or treatment plants release water and pollutants into a river. Point source pollution is often controlled through water-quality standards and permitting programs, which establish limits on the kind or amount of pollutants each point source may discharge into a body of water.

A nonpoint source is an activity that takes place over a broad area and results in the release of pollutants from many different locations. Agriculture, forestry, residential, and urban development are examples of nonpoint sources of pollutants. Common pollutants from these activities include:

Many local government officials, as well as citizens, are becoming increasingly interested in taking action to address local water quality problems caused primarily by nonpoint source pollutants. These groups recognize that water-quality problems do not occur in isolation, but that many activities within a watershed can degrade water resources downstream. Surface and ground waters are directly connected, so management strategies aimed at protecting water quality must often be designed to address the impacts of human activities on watersheds (surface water) as well as aquifer-recharge areas (ground water).

Conditions in Your Watershed

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) post information on North Carolina’s watershed health, impaired water bodies (those that are too polluted to maintain their designated, beneficial uses) and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) on their websites.

In addition, basinwide water quality plans are prepared by the NC Division of Water Quality (DWQ) for each of the seventeen major river basins in the state. Although plans are prepared by the DWQ, their implementation and the protection of water quality entails the coordinated efforts of many agencies, local governments and stakeholder groups in the state.

Resources and Programs

North Carolina State University (NCSU) education and Extension programs are available to the public to address pollution assessment and prevention. These programs also may be designed to provide pollution prevention information to specific audiences such as youth, farmers and other rural citizens, small businesses and other audiences.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension provides educational programs designed to provide pollution assessment and prevention assistance. Programs developed by NCSU in Raleigh and NC A&T State University in Greensboro are being used in every county to provide water resource information to homeowners, youth, farmers, communities, businesses, and news media.

Extension Outreach

Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to citizens. Some of the major Extension education programs addressing watershed management are:

The NC Home*A*Syst and Farm*A*Syst programs have provided water quality information to more than 3,000 homeowners, farmers, and other residents. The program is reaching out to other government agencies and businesses to inform the public of the need for good water quality. By providing self-assessment sheets, the citizens of North Carolina are able to evaluate their pollution risks on their property. The topics cover well protection, septic tank maintenance, stormwater management, and lawn care.

Extension personnel at the NC Stream Restoration Institute provide information on natural channel design applications for stream restoration. The goal of the Stream Restoration Institute is to improve water quality and aquatic ecology through research, demonstration projects, and education of the public. As a project is undertaken, Extension personnel conduct public meetings and media campaigns to inform the general public, elected officials, community leaders, and school children about the project and water quality in general. In addition, project personnel make many one-to-one visits to stakeholders in the watershed to inform them of project activities and address any questions or concerns they may have.

The North Carolina Master Gardener program conducted by North Carolina Cooperative Extension trains gardening enthusiasts to use appropriate amounts of pesticides and fertilizers on lawns and gardens to reduce runoff of pesticides and fertilizers while enhancing productivity.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to improve pollution assessment and prevention. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their benefits. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU conducts research programs and projects in all aspects of water quality. A comprehensive list and description of NCSU research categorized by river basins in NC is available. Some examples follow:

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to improve pollution assessment and prevention. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their benefits. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU conducts research programs and projects in all aspects of water quality. A comprehensive list and description of NCSU research categorized by river basins in NC is available. Some examples follow:

For example, Long Creek is a perennial stream that serves as the primary water source for Bessemer City. It is extremely important that this water source be of good quality.waterfall.gif However, agricultural activities related to crop and dairy production were nonpoint sources of pollutants to the Creek. Also, the upper third of the watershed was polluted by sediment from eroding crop fields. BMPs ranging from contour farming, exclusion of cattle from streams, riparian vegetation and stream restoration have been implemented and water quality improvement has been documented in a series of research and outreach publications.

The objectives of the Watauga River Watershed Project include: 1) through land acquisition and conservation easements, to protect riparian areas and wetlands that are not degraded, 2) to improve water quality and wildlife habitat by restoring degraded streams to their natural stable form, and 3) to evaluate the effectiveness of stream restoration techniques and provide community outreach and education.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in pollution assessment and prevention are available within several departments at NCSU. The Water Quality Program has compiled a list of water-related courses offered at NCSU.

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