New Hope Creek

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Impacted Waters

Land that drains into New Hope Creek is known as its watershed. Most of the New Hope Creek watershed is in Orange County. The watershed includes the Town of Chapel Hill, part of the Duke University campus, and commercial areas such as South Square. It also covers the southwestern part of Durham County.

Water from New Hope Creek flows into Jordan Lake, then it follows the Haw River to the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear River is the only one in North Carolina that empties directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

New Hope Creek Watershed

Get Involved

There are many ways for you to help protect the health of New Hope Creek.  You can adopt a drain or participate with NC Stream Watch. There are also two major stream clean-ups each year. Big Sweep is the 1st weekend in October and Creek Week is the third week in March. Contact the public education coordinator for details.

You can also join some of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. The New Hope Audubon Society, the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, and the Haw River Assembly are active in this watershed.

Stormwater Services encourages neighbors to discuss and discourage putting trash, wash water, grease, or other pollution into storm drains. Anything that goes into storm drains does not get treated and, in this watershed, eventually washes into New Hope Creek. Residents can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.

Water Quality

The health and cleanliness of the New Hope Creek watershed are reported in Durham’s annual State of Our Streams Report. In years when staff is able to take a wide variety of tests, the watershed is also given a score. New Hope Creek was last given a score of 78 in 2022. This compares to a "C" letter grade. This is down from a score of 81 in 2021. This score was given because of:

  • Poor bacteria levels
  • Good nutrient levels
  • Good turbidity levels

The state decided that these water quality concerns keep New Hope Creek from its intended uses by people and wildlife. The state added the creek to a list of impaired water bodies, also known as the 303(d) list. This means the city will need to take steps to find and reduce sources of pollution in the creek.

Water Quality Investigations

In the 2022 reporting year, staff found 23 sources of pollution. This is a list of the pollution sources our team found based on investigations and stormwater hotline (919-560-7946) tips. The top sources of pollution identified within the city in 2022 were: 

  • private sanitary sewer spills
  • city sanitary sewer spills
  • improper yard waste disposal
  • erosion and sediment discharged
  • petroleum spills

Past summaries of the health of New Hope Creek:

Upper Sandy Creek Restoration Project

Many groups came together to restore about 3,600 feet of stream. The stream banks were rebuilt. The new lower, curvy banks will help keep nearby areas from flooding. A buffer of hundreds of shrubs and trees was planted. These plants will help treat pollution and prevent erosion. A wetland that helps treat water pollution, such as nutrient pollution, was also built. This project will help prevent erosion and improve water quality in Sandy Creek, New Hope Creek, and Jordan Lake.

Sandy Creek Park Stream Restoration

In the summer of 2003, a stream restoration project was completed on 2,461 linear feet of Sandy Creek in Sandy Creek Park. Also, a wetland restoration project on 3.1 acres was conducted as part of this project. The goals of the stream restoration were to improve water quality, reduce flooding, and restore aquatic and riparian habitats. The project site was the former City of Durham New Hope Creek Waste Water Treatment Facility.

For the latest update on this and other stream restoration projects in the city, check out the Stream Restoration Project Fact Sheet (PDF).