UNC Nutrient Management Study

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Through the 2016 NC House Bill 1030, the North Carolina legislature commissioned a new study through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to reevaluate the nutrient strategies for the Jordan Lake and Falls Lake watersheds. In part, the legislation establishes a need to "review the costs and benefits of existing nutrient management strategies,” with an end goal being that the State of North Carolina will modify the nutrient management strategies in order to “share costs on an equitable basis.”

In the specific appropriation of funds, the bill states that as part of the study done by UNC, the entity shall “examine the costs and benefits of basin wide nutrient strategies in other states and the impact (or lack of impact) those strategies have had on water quality.”

This six-year study involves many components, and there are over a dozen different research teams from UNC focused on varying tasks. The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s role is focused on the legislative directives above, with the intention being that we will establish a current revenueshed analysis for both the Jordan and Falls Lake water sheds, and then use that revenueshed to propose cost sharing alternatives for nutrient management in each basin. The first three years of the study are dedicated to Jordan Lake and the second three years are dedicated to Falls Lake.

The costs associated with nutrient management are immense, not just in North Carolina, but around the country. The projections laid out in the fiscal analysis for the current management strategies 10 years ago reflected high numbers that are concerning to local governments in the respective watersheds, and that have contributed to the current stalemate. The jurisdictional boundaries, the variation in costs and benefits for each community, and the sensitive ecological nature of the water bodies at play in this project all contribute to the difficulty in establishing a way to move forward with nutrient management that everyone can contribute to in a “fair, reasonable, and proportionate” way. It is the intent that the research conducted by the EFC at UNC on this project will assist in putting forth some potential ways forward.