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State Forced to Choose Who Can Tap into Jordan Lake

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DURHAM — Water is one of the few basic needs we cannot live without. But as our area grows, the precious resource is hard to come by.

Several cities, from Greensboro to Fayetteville, are trying to tap into Jordan Lake. The lake, which straddles Chatham, Wake and Durham counties, has a limited water supply, which means many communities will walk away empty-handed.

Durham's water supply helps pump its economy. That is why it wants to tap into Jordan Lake.

Durhamwants 25 million gallons of water a day so it has enough capacity in the future.

"If we don't start now, when the need is here, 10 or 15 years from now we won't have the supply in place," says Terry Rolan, Environmental Resources Director.

The problem is, there are only 100 million gallons a day to give; 35 million gallons are already going out. So the state Environmental Management Commission has to make some tough choices.

"We can't make everyone happy. We took a hard look at need. Communities have to do a good job of justifying their growth rates. We also look at whether they use water wisely," says Tom Fransen, Water Allocation Chief.

Durham has to get in line with other towns likeCary, which is already doubling its water plant in anticipation of getting more water from Jordan Lake.

If Durham is denied, it may just expand its existing reservoir, Lake Michie.

"It would be a 50 percent increase in the height of the dam and the cost of doing that if we have to build a whole new dam would be very expensive," says Rolan.

Durham says it would cost as much as $70 million to expand Lake Michie. Tapping into Jordan Lake would be a third of the cost.

Parceling out Jordan Lake water is not just a concern for communities in the immediate area. Taking too much water from the lake could reduce its flow into the Cape Fear River, which is Fayetteville's water supply.