The Eno River originates in north Orange County and flows south from its headwaters through Hillsborough, where it bears east and flows into Durham County. The Eno River Basin Voluntary Capacity Use Area encompasses the 150 square miles of the Upper Eno River watershed upstream from the mouth of the Little River. This area includes the Town of Hillsborough as well as portions of Orange and Durham Counties and the City of Durham.
Why is there concern for the Eno River?
The Eno River is greatly affected by seasonal dry periods. There has long been concern with the security of water supplies and with adequate flows for aquatic habitat in the public park land along the Eno River. In the mid-1980s, the Eno River dried up completely for extended periods of time between Ben Johnston Dam and the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The dry conditions adversely affected aquatic habitat, public recreation, natural aesthetics, water supply and water quality.
The Environmental Management Commission (EMC) directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to conduct an investigation on the Eno River Basin. The Department found that during low flow periods the water demand exceeded the available water supply and that projected growth and increased water use in the Eno Basin would require immediate attention to avoid more severe water supply problems. The total water usage from the Eno River had increased such that a coordinated effort was necessary to protect the interests and rights of riparian owners. In order to preserve water quality and aquatic habitat in the Eno River, new water supply sources needed to be developed in addition to the implementation of cooperative conservation among all water users. As a result, the Eno River Voluntary Capacity Use Area was established.
What is the Eno River Voluntary Capacity Use Area?
The Voluntary Capacity Use Area is based on a resolution by the Environmental Management Commission (EMC Resolution 88-13) under the authority of the Water Use Act of 1967 (G.S. 143-215.12 (et. seq.)) and has benefited from local support since its commencement in 1988. The Eno River Voluntary Capacity Use Area encompasses north Orange County and the portion of central Durham County that drains into the Eno River. The area includes Lake Orange, Corporation Lake, Orange-Alamance Reservoir, Lake Ben Johnston, and the West Fork Eno Reservoir.
In the fall of 1988, the EMC accepted and endorsed a voluntary water management plan for the Eno River basin. The EMC directed the Division of Water Resources to monitor compliance with the approved plan and to regularly report their findings. If the primary users do not adhere to the plan, the EMC can establish a mandatory capacity use area designation, which would result in issuing water use permits for withdrawals of 100,000 gallons per day or more.