Local News

Jordan Lake Brims With Liquid Gold

Posted February 22, 2008 2:38 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2008 7:00 p.m. EST

— Unlike Falls Lake north of Raleigh or parched reservoirs in Durham, Jordan Lake is filled to capacity, and several counties and municipalities are looking for ways to lap up the lake's water to quench their growing thirst.

Experts say Jordan Lake is almost a foot higher than what it is when technically full. Meanwhile, Falls Lake, Raleigh's primary reservoir, is about 8 feet below normal levels, and Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, Durham's main sources of drinking water, are about 3½ and 20 feet below normal, respectively.

A rush is on across the region to tap into Jordan Lake's waters as the statewide drought moves toward its second summer.

Durham, for example, now gets about 2 million gallons a day from the lake. But state and federal regulators have allocated the Bull City up to 10 million gallons a day from the Lake, and city officials are eager to take all of it.

"Jordan Lake has shown that it is fairly drought-resistant," Durham Deputy City Manager Ted Voorhees said.

Cary and Apex own the only intake pipe and water treatment plant connected to Jordan Lake, so Durham has worked a deal with those towns to expand its daily supply.

Durham officials also are talking with representatives from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority and Chatham and Orange counties about jointly investing tens of millions of dollars to build another intake pipe and water treatment plant on Jordan Lake's western shore. If approved, that project could take five to eight years to complete.

"There's room for everyone to appropriately benefit, and we're going to work together on this application so that nobody is left high and dry," Voorhees said.

Cary and Apex are allowed to tap Jordan Lake for up to 32 million gallons a day, but about a third of the lake's capacity remains unallocated.

Raleigh officials have started talking with Cary officials about purchasing up to 2 million gallons a day to help conserve as much water in Falls Lake as possible. Falls has enough drinking water to last Raleigh and six area towns on the municipal water system through at least the end of June, officials said.

Durham's plans to draw more water from Jordan Lake also could benefit Raleigh. If Durham is less reliant on Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, more water could be released from them to flow downstream into Falls Lake, Voorhees said.