Drought Map as of June 21, 2016.
North Carolin a Drought Monitor

Summer has brought moderate-to-severe drought conditions to 14 counties in the southwest corner of the state.

The area usually sees about an inch of rain per week, but not so this year, according to State Climatologist Rebecca Ward.

The Haw River as seen from the Bynum Bridge with 15-501 in the distance
Keith Weston / WUNC

Depending on the perspective, the announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency was instituting a new, updated and clarified Clean Water Rule is either a cause for celebration in North Carolina or a cause for fear that it will choke the state's economy

What is most likely, of course, is that the rule will come under further partisan attacks.

Wood Duck
Ellerbee Creek Watershed Association

Honking horns, slamming doors and congested streets: these are the sounds and sites of a bustling city. 

Photo: The North Carolina Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina’s General Assembly leadership is expected to begin negotiations this week to reconcile two proposals for the state’s $21.1 billion budget, a legislation that touches many aspects of government, but has centered on how to give pay raises to public school teachers.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved legislation that would lift the state’s de-facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing next year, but will likely be challenged by the House of Representatives and Governor Pat McCrory.

The bill, known as the Energy Modernization Act, calls for the state to start issuing permits for drilling companies to extract natural gas through the controversial drilling method known as fracking on July 1, 2015.

A photo of a rig and gas well operation in the Marcellus Shale in Jackson Township, Pa.
WCN 24-7 via flickr

North Carolina lawmakers approved on Thursday the draft of a bill that outlines how drilling companies may be able to conduct a controversial type of natural gas extraction in the state.

The bill, which the General Assembly will deliberate when it convenes for session this month, includes provisions on the chemicals used for gas extraction, the possibility of water contamination, and local government ordinances.

Godi Godar (right) with a man from the Lac Tumba region, DRC
Godi Godar

Godi Godar lives and works in Durham, NC. He's a mechanic there. That's kind of amazing since Godar had never seen a car until he was in his 20s.

Godi grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There was no running water or electricity in his town, Ikoko Bonginda. (Ikoko is in the Congolese rainforest, several hundred miles upriver from the DRC's capital, Kinshasa.)

Godi recalls seeing electricity across the lake, where the missionaries were.

"I remember saying, 'Wow, look at the lights there!' It was a trip."

The state commission overseeing plans to treat pollution in Jordan Lake did not make any recommendations during its last meeting.
JT Taylor / Flickr/Creative Commons

The state commission that’s been looking at ways to treat pollution in Jordan Lake did not make any recommendations during its last hearing on Wednesday.

Government and business leaders from towns that use the lake for drinking water urged the committee to reinstate regulations on the water that is poured into the lake.

The state has suspended some requirements until 2016. They would require costly improvements to storm water drainage in in areas including Greensboro and Burlington.

An image from Ice Music, photographed by UNC Professor Brooks de Wetter-Smith within a Swiss glacier
Brooks de Wetter Smith / Ice Music

 After numerous trips to Antarctica, Brooks de Wetter-Smith developed a fascination with ice. He says this overlooked necessity gives us water and supports our rivers. But it is not just utilitarian. The element is visually-magnificent, and creates unique sounds as it transforms from ice to water. 

Brooks described to Host Frank Stasio what it was like exploring Antarctica, a massive icy landscape, and how that made him think twice about the ice back home. 

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A committee of state lawmakers is trying to determine how to best clean-up Jordan Lake. The group met for the first time yesterday.  Jordan Lake has large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which on their own don’t present any significant problem. But when those nutrients sit stagnant in the lake for as long as a year at a time, it leads to toxic algae and chlorophyll.  The state is going to soon start using something called the SolarBee, devices that will move water around and decrease stagnation.

Creative Commons

Algae may seem harmless, but toxic algae blooms can be a real problem in water supplies used by people.

They can kill wildlife in the water and be dangerous to humans. Host Frank Stasio talks with Hans Paerl, professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, Morehead City.

Albemarle Sound, NC

Federal cuts mean the state will stop monitoring water quality at several dozen swimming sites along coastal rivers and sounds in the coming year. The Environmental Protection Agency cut $22,000 from a grant for the testing.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries uses a combination of state and federal funds to test 240 swimming areas for certain bacteria.

Director Louis Daniel says the division has notified county heath and summer camp directors that it will stop testing water quality at 41 swimming areas in coastal rivers and sounds.

Salim Virji / Flickr Creative Commons

Raleigh residents have until January first to take advantage of the city's toilet upgrade reimbursement.

Raleigh has been giving out $100 rebates for efficient toilets since 2009. It was part of an effort to encourage water conservation following the severe drought in 2007 and 2008.

Ed Buchan is Raleigh's environmental coordinator. He says the city is ending the rebate program, because rate-payers have embraced the efficiency effort.

"So we have this business case analysis, we looked at the program, and we budgeted $500,000 a year for the rebates," Buchan says.

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water cycle.
Environmental Protection Agency

North Carolina environmental officials have said "no" to a federal grant to check water quality in areas where fracking may occur.  The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the money from the EPA would only pay for salaries of people brought in to do testing. 

Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder says DENR doesn't need them.

The Tuckasegee River at Bryson City, North Carolina.
Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia, Creative Commons

North Carolina is not keeping up with the Environmental Protection Agency's rules to measure water quality. 

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not updated its standards of measuring toxic metals in water since 2007.  The Clean Water Act requires states to hold public hearings and review their rules every three years.  North Carolina is the only state in the EPA's southeast division that has not adopted the latest federal rules. 

Mark "Maki" Reynaldo

Allison Swaim spent a year at sea. She rode on eight different cargo ships, documenting life onboard and circumnavigating the world.

She came back a year ago with hours of tape and hundreds of photos from her adventure. When she returned, Allison opened up her collection to artists, who made their own art in response to her work. The show, “Hold Capacity/Trade Route Stories, Reimagined,” features the work of a group of local artists who collaborated with Allison. 

NC State House

Lawmakers in the state House have passed a controversial bill that would extend water and sewer lines to a mixed-use development outside Durham city limits. The Durham city council recently voted against providing services to the 167 acre 751 project. But its developers have lobbied state legislators to get access, saying the plan will bring jobs to the area. Republican representative Tim Moore says he believes in the spirit of the planned development.

Customers of Cary's public water utility can now monitor how many gallons they use on an hourly basis.  The town invested $172,553 in a system that updates water usage online.  Cary Financial Director Karen Mills says the new system is meant to make customers more aware of how much water they're using or wasting.

"They can see what's going on with their usage, understanding, for example, their irrigation usage if they have an automated system; when it's running, how long it's running," Mills says.

A map showing NC counties in moderate drought or abnormally dry
NC Drought Management Advisory Council

In the latest report from the US Drought Monitor just eight North Carolina counties are listed as being in moderate drought. At the end of December there were 65 - out of 100 counties in the state - that were classified as in moderate drought. The report released Thursday also lists 19 counties as abnormally dry.

Drinking Water: A History

When your body’s feeling crummy, someone will likely tell you to remedy it by drinking more water. Whether it’s for clearer skin or lower anxiety, people have a lot of faith in the healing power of this liquid. But water isn’t a plentiful cure-all everywhere. For many people living in places bordered by water masses, it’s hard to gain access to this necessity.

Officials with the City of Raleigh may ask for some changes to be made to how much water they can use from Falls Lake Reservoir. The request may delay plans for a new reservoir in eastern Wake County.

About 20 private wells in a Wake Forest neighborhood have been found to be contaminated with a toxic degreasing agent. Kenneth Rhame is a federal on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says one home off Stony Hill Road had concentrations of TCE more than 65 times the safe drinking limit.

UNC-Chapel Hill researchers are working to make it easier for hydrologists to share data on problems facing the world's water supply. The project is being funded by the National Science Foundation. Ray Idaszak works for the Renaissance Computing Institute at the university. He says his team is working to create the high-tech infrastructure to allow scientists to see and comment on each other's work.

Lawmakers have tentatively passed a bill that would require cities to provide water and sewer service to any area within its urban growth boundary.