Cape Fear Basin Discharge

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Overview

Growth in western Wake County has increased the challenge of protecting our environment while ensuring adequate water supply and wastewater treatment capacity for the region. One way the Town of Cary is meeting this challenge is with its two water reclamation plants, which pump highly-treated wastewater back to homes and businesses for irrigation and industrial processes rather than discharging all of it into creeks.

Cary and its neighbors will need increased water and wastewater treatment capacity over the long term to accommodate even today's much slower growth. Years of study precede land acquisition, design and construction of treatment facilities.

Cary is a partner in the Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities project.

Background

Hundreds of communities in North Carolina get drinking water by drawing it out of a river, lake, or stream and treating it with chemicals. Treated wastewater typically is discharged into the same river system and becomes a source of drinking water for communities downstream. Cary rests atop a ridge that divides two river basins – the Neuse and the Cape Fear.

Cary draws drinking water from Jordan Lake, which is part of the Cape Fear River basin, and treats it at a plant that Cary owns with the Town of Apex. The plant currently provides drinking water to Cary, Apex, Morrisville, and the Wake County portion of the Research Triangle Park. Water treatment capacity increased to 40 million gallons per day in early 2002 during phased expansion.

Cary discharges highly-treated wastewater into the Neuse River basin. The North Cary and South Cary water reclamation plants have been designed as regional facilities and currently handle wastewater from Morrisville and the Wake County portion of Research Triangle Park. Reclaimed water projects at each plant involve separate pipeline networks that distribute the reclaimed water to some homes and businesses for irrigation or industrial processes. This saves drinking water. Water that is not pumped from the North Cary and South Cary plants into the reclaimed water distribution system is discharged into creeks that feed the Neuse River.

Since Cary draws water from one river basin and discharges into another, the State requires an inter-basin transfer certificate to ensure the long-term balance of water supplies. In connection with the water treatment plant expansion, Cary and its partners obtained an inter-basin transfer certificate from the N.C. Environmental Management Commission on July 12, 2001. One requirement for the certificate is that the towns return treated wastewater to the Cape Fear basin for use by others downstream on the Cape Fear River.