CUMBERLAND COUNTY — One of Eastern North Carolina's biggest sources of drinking water is in trouble. The Cape Fear River is already sick and there's concern that massive growth in the river basin will cause more problems.
Cumberland County is just one of many areas around our state growing by leaps and bounds. Many of us don't realize the effect development has on our rivers.
The more people that are living in an area, the greater the resources that are drawn from rivers like the Cape Fear.
By the year 2020, two million people may live in the Cape Fear River Basin. That's twice as many as there were in 1970. More people means more homes, more businesses, and more problems.
Alan Clark, with the Division of Water Quality, worries about erosion. "There's going to be more rainfall flowing off the land, more erosion, more impacts to our waterways.
The effects of development were just one of the items discussed at Thursday's 'Protecting the Cape Fear River Conference' in Sampson County.
Researchers, environmentalists, and business leaders presented information hoping to raise awareness of problems facing the Cape Fear.
Many rivers throughout the state face problems similar to the Cape Fear's. But there are also concerns unique to the waterway.
In Cumberland County, for example, an increase in population means an increased demand for drinking water and wastewater. The demand puts pressure on treatment facilities.
"We need to make sure technology is in place and the capabilities are in place to handle growth in the population," Cape Fear River Assembly Member Lex Jones says.
Jones says being proactive, rather than reactive, will be critical.
Environmentalists say the biggest problem is a lack of awareness. They say people don't realize how important the river is, and what is required to protect it.
Several programs are in place to start teaching children about the state's waterways.
TheNC Department of Environment and Natural Resourcesis currently developing a student's guide to water issues.