On Friday, March 22, Wake Forest University’s Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and the Yadkin Riverkeeper co-hosted a discussion on the wise use, sound management, and protection of the drinking water supply in the Yadkin watershed. The event coincided with the end of Forsyth Country’s Creek Week and the United Nation’s World Water Day.
Associate Dean of the Wake Forest School of Law, Richard Schneider, opened the event by introducing the organizing topic of the panel: nutrient management strategies for the Yadkin River. Such strategies involve state- and local-level guidelines that are tightly coupled to land-use planning.
The evening centered on a keynote presentation by Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, Director of North Carolina State University’s Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology and Department of Plant Biology. Dr. Burkholder presented the science behind nutrient pollution, that is, the addition of nitrogen and phosphorus to waterways by human activities, which accelerate natural processes and, under the right conditions, may trigger toxic algal blooms and fish kills. Dr. Burkholder outlined specific management strategies for High Rock Lake on the Yadkin River, while emphasizing the national scope of the problem, as nutrient pollution has degraded at least one-half of the freshwater lakes and streams in the U.S.
Following the keynote talk were brief presentations by other panelist who represented several perspectives related to the implementation of nutrient management strategies in Yadkin River watershed. Cy Stober, Water Resources Manager with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, discussed challenges to local governments; Andy Miller, Director of the Davidson Soil and Water Conservation District, discussed implications for agricultural communities; and Dean Naujoks, Director of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, discussed community advocacy and monitoring efforts in the Yadkin watershed.
The presentations touched on various issues concerning sources of nutrient pollution, specific management strategies to minimize nutrient run-off, and the socially complicated consequences of curbing nutrient pollution. Among themes to emerge were the challenges of management, enforcement, and clean-up, especially given the diverse and diffuse sources of nutrient pollution and the very high cost of stream remediation. However, the discussion also mentioned the potential economic benefit of maintaining clean waterways through promotion of outdoor recreation and tourism, particularly in rural portions of the watershed. The evening wrapped up with a Q&A session with the audience.