Doug Rader, an environmental scientist, says development along the Cape Fear River basin pours fish-killing sediment into the lake.
"This lake is getting hammered pretty much every way it could get hammered. Ecologically, it is being hammered," he says. "You just don't foul your own nest this way."
With limited trash and bathroom facilities, careless lake visitors pollute with everything from dirty diapers to beer bottles.
Bill Holman, state Secretary ofEnvironmental and Natural Resources, says the state knows the risks to Jordan Lake. His office has launched a plan to protect the watershed. However, he says local action is the best cleaning solution.
"I'm hoping other local governments will look at buffer requirements, stormwater management, improved wastewater treatment -- a whole number of strategies to increase protection at Jordan Lake," he says. "I hope we can act now to try and prevent this kind of problem in the future."
Several thirsty communities like Durham and Fayetteville are lining up to tap into the lake. Rader says he hopes efforts to protect the water get first consideration.
"The best investment you can make in clean water is by not letting it get dirty in the first place," he says.
State leaders credit Cary with taking a big step toward protecting Lake Jordan. The town has imposed a 100-foot buffer around streams leading to the lake.