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An Introduction to NC’s Water Quality Program and *Nonpoint Source Pollution. Division of Water Quality WQ Planning Branch NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. * Also known as Runoff Pollution. Overview of Presentation. Growth issues in NC Affecting NPS Pollution

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An introduction to nc s water quality program and nonpoint source pollution l.jpg

An Introduction to NC’sWater Quality Programand *Nonpoint Source Pollution

Division of Water Quality

WQ Planning Branch

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

* Also known as Runoff Pollution

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Overview of Presentation

  • Growth issues in NC Affecting NPS Pollution

  • Introduction to the DWQ’s WQ Program

  • Primary Goals of the WQ Program

  • Major Sources of Pollution (Point/NPS)

  • Impacts of Pollution on Water Quality

  • How do We Measure Water Quality?

  • How is the WQ in North Carolina?

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NC Population Growth (1670-2000)













































NC’s population has been doubling every 50 years for the past 200 years! What will be the impact of 8 million more people by 2050?

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NC Land Cover Changes 1982-97(acres x 1000)

% Changes

Agric. -13.4%

Forest -6.9%

Urban +88.1%


National Resources

Inventory (1997)

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Known primarily as a regulatory agency, but… protecting water quality

  • DWQ Permitting Programs

  • Discharge permits

  • Nondischarge permits

  • Wetlands permits

  • Riparian buffer protection

  • Others

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We also do biological investigations, protecting water quality

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Predictive Computer Modeling, protecting water quality

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Planning, protecting water quality

  • Basinwide Planning

  • Stream classifications

  • Rule development

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And enforcement of water quality laws protecting water quality

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Primary Goal of NC’s Water Quality Program protecting water quality

Protect and Restore uses of North Carolina’s surface waters.

Uses include:

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Fishing and protecting water quality


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Water Supply and... protecting water quality

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High Quality Waters (HQW) and protecting water quality

Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW)

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Major Sources of Pollution protecting water quality

Point Sources and

Nonpoint Sources

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Point Sources of Pollution protecting water quality

Comes from a pipe, discrete point or ditch. Generally associated with a wastewater discharge but includes urban or industrial stormwater discharges

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*Nonpoint Sources of Pollution (NPS) protecting water quality

Pollution reaching waterways from rainfall runoff, atmospheric deposition and groundwater flow. Impacts result from cumulative effects of many small activities. (*Also known as Runoff Pollution)

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Land Development

If not done properly, this can result in:

  • Increased Imperviousness

  • Increased Pollutants

  • Increased Runoff

  • Impacts to Stream Banks

  • Erosion/Sedimentation

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Construction and GradingThe major runoff pollution pollutant is sedimentation. Sediment control measures need to be properly designed, installed and maintained until the site is stabilized. Problems can also result fro improperly handling fuel and chemicals at construction sites.

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Urban stormwaterA major impact is runoff from impervious surfaces which erodes streams and destroys aquatic habitat is the major impact from urban stormwater. Urban runoff also carries high fecal coliform levels from pet and wildlife wastes, fertilizer and pesticides from yards and landscaped areas, auto-related pollutants such as oil, grease, and abraded tire material, and pollutants contained in atmospheric deposition.

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

AgricultureImpacts come from cropland and animal operations. Common pollutants are sediment, nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria (animal operations). Agriculture is the leading source of nonpoint source pollution in NC although it should be noted that this impact is shrinking as ag land is converted to development and as sediment control measures such as no-till farming become more widespread.

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Land disposal of wastewaterThis includes onsite wastewater systems (e.g., septic systems), spray irrigation, sludge disposal and landfills.

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Silviculture (Forestry)Forest cover is generally excellent for protection of water quality. However, water quality problems can occur from improper harvesting techniques such as clearing next to streams and not using adequate BMPs for sediment control . In eastern NC, ditching, which changes the nature hydrology, also adversely impacts water quality by increasing the rate of runoff

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Atmospheric DepositionThe atmosphere is a significant source of water pollution. This includes acid rain, nitrogen compounds (which come from cars, industry and animal operations and contribute to nutrient overenrichment and algal blooms) and mercury (which has resulted in fish consumption advisories across NC , particularly in the Coastal Plain).

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality

Marinas and Recreational BoatingRunoff pollution comes primarily from paved areas and service yards, oil and gas leakage, and improper disposal of human wastes.

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NPS/Runoff Pollution protecting water quality


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What are the Impacts of protecting water qualityNonpoint Source Pollution on Water Quality?

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Algae Blooms and Aquatic Weeds protecting water qualityComes from an excess of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from both point and nonpoint sources

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Fish kills protecting water quality(most often resulting from low dissolved oxygen associated with algal blooms and/or hot weather)

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Habitat degradation protecting water qualityMostly a nonpoint source problem resulting from improperly performed land disturbing activities (such as construction, farming and forestry which allow excessive sediment runoff) and post development stormwater runoff in urban areas (which increases the flow of stormwater and erodes stream channels)

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Closed shellfish waters protecting water qualityCaused by pathogen contamination as indicated by high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The bacteria come mostly from runoff in developed areas containing wildlife and pet wastes. Can also come from leaking sewer systems and pump stations, improper sewage treatment, failing septic systems and improperly handled farm animal wastes.

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Unsafe swimming conditions protecting water qualityResults from pathogen contamination as evidenced by elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria. Can come from a variety of sources including wildlife and pet wastes, leaking sewer systems and pump stations, improper sewage treatment, failing septic systems and improperly handled farm animal wastes.

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How Do We Measure protecting water quality

Water Quality?

Biological and chemical water

quality testing is done by DWQ as shown in the

following slides to determine whether waters are supporting the intended uses

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Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling protecting water quality

This technique utilizes the varying

pollutant sensitivities among different

aquatic organisms, such as aquatic

insect larvae, as a water quality indicator.

Assessing the types and numbers of

species gives an indication of water


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Fish community and tissue sampling protecting water quality

Assessing the numbers, diversity

and health of fish communities is

another way to assess water

quality. Tissues of fish are also

sampled to determine whether

they are safe to eat.

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Ambient Water Quality Monitoring protecting water quality

Chemical water quality sampling is performed monthly at almost 400 stations around the state in streams, lakes and salt waters. Many parameters are studied such as pH, metals, bacteria, dissolved oxygen and others. This sampling helps DWQ determine water trends and problem areas.

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Water protecting water qualityChemistry

DWQ’s lab analyzes

ambient and other water

quality samples.

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Oxygen demand from bottom sediments protecting water quality

Wastewater treatment plants discharge

pollutants known as oxygen-consuming

wastes. This includes organic matter

that decomposes in the water column

and takes up dissolved oxygen needed

by other aquatic life.

Divers place devices on the bottom of

selected waterways to measure the

amount of dissolved oxygen removed

from the water column by bottom-

dwelling bacteria and through chemical

processes. This information is used by

computer modelers to determine the

level of treatment required at waste-

water treatment plants to protect the

waters and aquatic life.

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How is the water quality protecting water quality

in North Carolina?

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* protecting water qualityMost streams are in good shape

...but 16.4% are impaired, or not supporting their uses


  • Major Causes of Imp.:

  • Habitat Degradation

  • (stream erosion and

  • sedimentation)

  • Fecal Coliforms

  • Low dissolved Oxygen

  • Turbidity


Includes approximately

2000 miles of

impaired streams that

need to be restored

*Based on monitored streams

Source: 1998-99 305(b) Report

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Impaired Stream Miles by Source protecting water quality(Top five sources)

Runoff Pollution

Point Source

Source: 1998-99 305(b) report

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*Saltwater Use Support Ratings protecting water quality

  • Only 4% of all 1,997,375 acres of coastal waters in NC are impaired. Sources of impairment

  • by %:

  • 41% Fecal Col. Bacteria (Shellfish Closures)

  • 9% Dissolved oxygen

  • 51% Chlorophyl a (nutrient problem)

  • (Note: because of overlap,

  • %s do not add to 100%)

Source: 1998-99 305(b) Report

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For further protecting water quality



Alan Clark

NC Division of Water Quality

1617 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

919-733-5083 x570

[email protected]