People often cite the cost of nutrient management strategies as a reason that they should not be undertaken. Indeed, the NC Division of Water Resource’s fiscal assessments of the cost of the Jordan and Falls Lake Nutrient Strategies estimate the implementation of each of those plans to be between $1 and $1.5 Billion dollars. That’s lot of money to spend and is a number often used by critics to argue against the clean-up plans.
Looking at the benefits of those strategies, however, helps illustrate why those dollars are a good investment. The State’s most recently passed strategy for Falls Lake explores the ancillary benefits of the money spent on the nutrient strategy. Here’s some of what the Division reports on these benefits:
“Assuming the strategy reductions are met, resulting improvements in raw water quality would help lower current drinking water treatment costs through reductions of chemical treatment needed and could also avoid potential future costs of expensive treatment upgrades. DWQ would also expect improved conditions for primary contact recreation which include swimming, fishing, boating, and skiing. Improvement in the water quality would also likely have a positive impact on local property values in general, increasing with greater proximity to the lake, and would serve to enhance the greater local economy through increased desire to live near a healthy sustainable natural resource.” Falls Lake Hearing Officer Report, 2011.
When added, the benefits of implementing the nutrient strategy offset the cost almost dollar-for-dollar. Importantly, these strategies also help to extend the life of the vital Falls and Jordan drinking water reservoirs which, when combined, supply water to nearly 800k residents of the triangle. The nutrient strategy calls for measures that reduce erosion on farms and urban development. By helping prevent erosion from the watershed, less sediment is deposited in the reservoirs. That sediment builds up over time and reduces the capacity to both store water and serve its targeted population. As an example, High Rock Lake was estimated to be losing approximately 0.36% annually due to sedimentation. That may not sound like much but it is scenario water managers do not want to see for either of the Triangle’s main water reservoirs.