Today at BCR: Four posts on the Falls Lake debate, in advance of Wednesday's public hearing on the draft DENR/DWQ rules on cleaning up the man-made reservoir (7pm, Neal Middle School). First up -- this overview of the debate.
In his recently-released book "On The Grid," author Scott Huler takes a surprisingly-engaging look at the infrastructure that underpins our modern American cities -- including the dual problems of water and stormwater.
Stormwater, Huler notes, was until recent decades seen as a nuisance, something that was best dealt with by smoothing out and deepening the natural creeks and streams that carry water to rivers and finally to oceans.
And American engineers diligently built such systems of culverts and pipes and other mechanism, a triumph of man over nature, freeing up room for shopping centers and neighborhoods and office complexes.
But that leads to problem #1: that rapidity of flow, in turn, washes lots of undesirable things downstream. Fertilizer; pet waste; petroleum products from our roads. And the faster the water flows, the less time natural processes have to clean the water natural.
And problem #1 leads to problem #2. As a water expert tells Huler in "On The Grid"--
Think of stormwater in reverse mode. Turn on your tap and what you get is actually stormwater.
In most cities, we drink what Mother Nature sends down from the sky.
And in Durham and Raleigh, these two problems are linked by the very intractable problem #3:
Durham's stormwater, much of it neatly made into rapid-flow channels in all the wrong ways more than a half-century ago, flows rapidly with urban pollution towards a man-made reservoir planned in the 60s, acquired as land in the 70s, and built in the 80s -- and serving as Raleigh's primary source of drinking water.
And just four years after Falls Lake's 1983 completion, as Huler notes, Congress changed the Clean Water Act to force cities to stop their past practices, and to clean up the messes that such practices created.