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About Jordan Lake Watershed

Brief History of the Jordan Lake Watershed

        Jordan Lake was created by the damming of Haw River, New Hope Creek, and

Morgan Creek. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction in 1967, the lake was not filled until 1982. The lake was created for flood control, water supply, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation.

Historical Timeline


   Jordan Lake received a Nutrient Sensitive Waters designation in 1983,

requiring nutrient management measures to reduce and prevent excessive growth of algae.


   The Clean Water Responsibility Act, passed in 1997, included legislation

to further address problems in Nutrient Sensitive Waters, specifically setting Nitrogen and Phosphorus limits for wastewater treatment plants permitted under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).


   In 2003, chlorophylla levels were so elevated in the Upper New Hope Arm of the Jordan Lake Watershed, it was classified as impaired, which required the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the calculation of a maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards.


   The Haw River Arm, in which Environmental Management Commission is located, was listed as impaired for chlorophylla in 2006 and a TMDL developed. With the seemingly deteriorating condition of the lake, the State took action by developing the Jordan Lake Rules in order to protect our water quality.


    Drafting of the rules began in 2005, with an expected promulgation date of

summer 2008, after a lengthy period of review and revisions.

Haw River Facts

      The Haw River and the Deep River join to form the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear is the largest water basin in the state and covers 9149 square miles and flows through 24 counties.

       The Haw River flows through sections of six counties: Forsyth, Guilford, Rockingham, Alamance, Orange, and Chatham, and is approximately 110 miles in length. The Haw River receives the runoff and wastewater from several large municipalities including Greensboro, Reidsville, Burlington, Graham, Mebane, Chapel Hill, and Durham. The entire watershed covers 1526 square miles.

       The Haw Watershed is a mix of rural and urban landscapes; agriculture (crop, pasture) 27%, forest 43%, urban 17.5%, other 13%.

       There are six dams on the Haw River: Glen Raven at Altamahaw, Swepsonville (2), Bynum, and the Jordan Lake Dam. All these dams except Jordan Lake were built in the 1800’s to provide hydropower for textile mills, once a thriving industry on the Haw. Many of the mills are now closed, by hydropower is still produced at Altamahaw, Saxapahaw and Bynum.

       The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the EPA have recognized for 20 years that sediment runoff resulting from human activities is the single most significant water pollutant. In 1982 the U.S. Soil Conservation Service estimated that 2 billion tons of sediment were being deposited in U.S. streams annually. Sediment impacts aquatic plants, adversely affects most aquatic animals (especially those with gills, including macroinvertebrates), and significantly alters the streambed, destroying habitat and spawing areas.

Threatened species on the Haw include the Squawfoot mussel and the Savannah Lilliput mussel.

For More Information:

Jordan Lake and Haw River History- The Haw River Assembly

Background History and Timeline- Division of Water Quality and Public Comment

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area






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