Northeast Creek

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Impacted Waters

Land that drains into Northeast Creek is known as its watershed. The Northeast Creek watershed includes a large portion of Research Triangle Park and neighborhoods such as Parkwood, Oakmont Circle, and Robinwood. The lower part of the watershed contains large natural areas like the game lands associated with Jordan Lake.

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

Northeast Creek received a D in 2022 because there was too much fecal bacteria and sediment.


There are many ways for you to help protect the health of Northeast 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. Email the public education coordinator for details.

You can also join one of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. Northeast Creek Streamwatch 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 Northeast Creek. Residents can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.


The health and cleanliness of the watershed is 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. Northeast Creek was last given a score of 67 in 2022. This compares to a "D" letter grade. This is down from 69 in 2020. This grade was given because of:

  • poor bacteria levels
  • poor turbidity levels
  • poor aquatic life levels
  • fair nutrient levels

These water quality concerns keep Northeast 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 takes extra steps to find and reduce sources of pollution in the creek. The State also created a TMDL (PDF) to help reduce the fecal coliform in the creek.

Water from Northeast Creek flows into Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake has recently had problems with algae caused by extra nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus). The State has created guidelines, also called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) (PDF)to help reduce the nutrients in the lake. Because of this, the city also carefully tracks nutrients in Northeast Creek.

Water Quality Investigations

In the 2022 reporting year, staff found 15 pollution sources. 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
  • petroleum spills
  • cooking grease spills

Past Reports

Dog Waste Stations

The city was awarded a grant to install 20 dog waste stations in Durham parks. There are two in the Northeast Creek Watershed in the C.M. Herndon and Bethesda parks.

Residential Rain Garden Project

Stormwater Services received a grant to install 40 residential rain gardens in the city. Sixteen rain gardens were installed in the Northeast Creek watershed in the summer and fall of 2011. These rain gardens capture runoff and help filter pollution.

Northeast Creek Metals Study

This study looked at how much and where metals are in Northeast Creek. Staff found unsafe levels of copper, cadmium, and nickel in the creek. Zinc levels were safe.

Watershed Improvement Plan

Stormwater Services completed the watershed improvement plan in 2012. This involved assessing over 200 stormwater control measures and over 60 stream miles to identify new and potential improvements for stormwater retrofits. Learn more about this improvement plan.