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How are we doing? – Water supply a concern

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(Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

GOAL: In 2020, North Carolina’s air and water will be of the highest quality.

TARGETS: Withdrawal from major aquifers will not exceed the recharge rate of each aquifer by 2010.

Our state has been blessed with an abundance of water, but the supply for the next 20 years, particularly in the I-85 corridor and the coast, is a growing concern.

The problem is that when aquifers — the underground layer that yields water — are overused, they lose their ability to recharge, permanently.

MEASURES:

Number of major aquifers where withdrawal exceed the recharge rate.

Water levels in two major aquifers in the central coastal plain, Black Creek and the Upper Cape Fear, have been declining since the 1960s and are more than 200 feet below the land surface in some areas.

Current withdrawals are exceeding the available supply, and ground water is being removed faster than the aquifers can recover, according to the state Division of Water Resources.

Despite new Environmental Management Commission rules requiring large users to reduce siphoning by 75 percent, declines in these aquifers are occurring faster than predicted.

In some areas water levels are falling below the top of the aquifer, which may result in damage to ground water quality.

Water supply problems also exist in the Piedmont Triad, Asheville and Buncombe County and the Research Triangle area.

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