A Valuable Resource
Falls Lake is an important resource for Durham and the region. Seven different areas around the lake offer opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, camping, hiking, and biking.
About 13,600 acres of land were designated as wildlife habitat around the lake.
Falls Lake is also a drinking water reservoir for the City of Raleigh and surrounding areas.
Some portions of the lake exceed the state’s standards for chlorophyll-a (found in algae) and these sections of the lake were placed on the state’s list of impaired waters in 2008. Too many algae can stress fish populations and increase water treatment costs.
To address these issues in the lake, North Carolina adopted a set of regulations referred to as the Falls Lake Nutrient Management Strategy (NMS) in 2010. The plan is focused on nutrient management because controlling algae usually means controlling nitrogen and phosphorus. These are nutrients that algae and all plants need to grow.
The Nutrient Management Strategy is being revised. The new Nutrient Management Strategy will be cost-effective, achievable, and adaptive. The City of Durham and other regional stakeholders (such as the City of Raleigh and the Town of Butner) are cooperating through the Upper Neuse River Basin Association (UNRBA) to reexamine the NMS. Examining the goals, feasibility, and need for further nutrient reductions is leading to a new, more effective NMS.
The original NMS had two stages. Stage I was a success. Stage I ensured that the lake meets its intended uses. The lake is currently a drinking water reservoir and a recreational resource. The first stage of the NMS also improved water quality, and the portion of the lake downstream of NC Highway 50 now meets state standards for chlorophyll-a.
Stakeholders like the City of Durham have reevaluated Stage II as it was originally written. This is important as the state estimates that the unchanged Stage II requirements would have cost an additional $700 million to $1.1 billion to Durham alone.
The City of Durham has always understood the need to protect city streams and downstream resources like Jordan Lake and Falls Lake. The city has had development requirements to protect stream buffers and treat stormwater runoff since the early 1980s. Additional requirements specifically targeting nutrients began in 2002, and further progress is being made to improve water quality.
The Army Corps of Engineers created Falls Lake when they completed a dam on the Neuse River in 1981. The Corps designed the lake to serve as a regional water supply, prevent flooding, and help protect water quality downstream of the lake during droughts. It also provides recreation for the region’s (and Durham’s!) residents. Because this reservoir was created in the fertile Piedmont region, managing nutrient loads to the lake has been a challenge since it was created.
Falls Lake's water level is impacted by many factors including precipitation, drought, evaporation rates, and water withdrawal.
USGS provides current data on Falls Lake including lake elevation, temperature, and precipitation.
Assistant Director of Public Works, Stormwater
Manager, Stormwater Infrastructure
Manager, Stormwater Special Projects
Manager, Stormwater Quality
Manager, Stormwater Development Review
101 City Hall Plaza
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: (919) 560-4326
Report Stormwater Pollution: Call
(919) 560-SWIM or submit a reportBoth are anonymous.