This is the first of what will be a quarterly, educational publication the NeuseLetter. It is designed to inform citizens, agencies and officials, and industry about the Neuse River Basin: the challenges we face together, and the research education efforts NC State University and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service are implementing or developing to answer these challenges. Many people are aware of the environmental problems associated with the Neuse River and the river basin. Much information has been distributed about these problems. The goal of this publication is to inform stakeholders about science-based solutions. Yes, the challenges are many. But so is the number of hard-working, competent people whose knowledge and expertise we can draw upon. What we must remember is that quality research will yield science-based solutions. And as these solutions arise, we at the NeuseLetter are committed to providing a forum that is not only informative and educational, but easy to understand.
uenching that summer thirst after a day of yard work. Offering a refreshing refuge for swimming, boating, and fishing - overall relaxing. Providing the necessary ingredient for North Carolina's picturesque landscape and prosperous agriculture. The element that unites these scenes is the most precious resource nature has to offer: water.
We drink it, cook with it, clean with it, swim in it, and fish from it. Yet even though water is such an integral part of our daily lives, we rarely spend much time or thought on the most important aspect of this natural treasure - quality. If we are to continue to use and enjoy water for the activities mentioned above, the issue of water quality deserves attention. The actions we take today determine the water quality of tomorrow. For those of us in the Neuse River Basin, water quality is an issue that citizens have been involved with for more than one hundred years. From 1887, when legislation was enacted to prohibit throwing dead livestock into the Neuse, to 1997 when nitrogen has been identified as the major cause of fish-killing algal blooms, the Neuse River has a long history of water quality issues.
The poor water quality of the Neuse did not happen overnight. Consequently, restoring this precious resource will take time, science-based solutions, and citizen involvement. Instead of placing blame, the result of looking on past actions, we should all look forward and do our part to help with this serious challenge. In truth, we are all part of the problem simply by living in the watershed. However, we can all be part of a solution. It simply involves willingness and education.
The education process begins with what we know. To explain what is already known, two basic definitions are crucial. Both involve pollution. First, point source pollution is the type of water pollution that is discharged from a pipe, tank, pit, or ditch. Second, nonpoint source pollution (sometimes referred to as NPS) is the type of pollution that originates from diffused areas (land or atmosphere) and has no well-defined source. NPS pollution results when rainfall moves over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, eventually depositing them into streams and rivers. These terms are brought to our attention not because the researchers involved want us to become scientists, but because the terms are important for us to know what we are dealing with.
The problem: an overdose of nutrients
What we do know - that is what has been scientifically proven - is that the Neuse River suffers from a nutrient problem: excess nitrogen. In the Neuse, all that nitrogen is stimulating biological growth, thus producing the great number of algal blooms we see in the river. When those algae die, they are decomposed by bacteria. These bacteria use up the available oxygen in the water. The impact on aquatic life is adverse. Many aquatic animals, that need the oxygen to live, suffocate. Hence, the large-scale fish kills and the overall poor water quality. Excess nutrients may also stimulate the growth of potentially harmful toxic algae.
Solutions are possible . . .
The quality of the Neuse has affected our lives greatly. Recent water quality problems have forced us to restrict our activities and treat this once great gift from nature with caution. We deserve better. We deserve to be able not only to enjoy the Neuse, but to reap the practical water-use benefits as well. We deserve cleaner water. And what makes our situation unique is that our own actions can actually make a difference. We have a chance to cooperate with nature. We can all be part of the solution and help put our researchers - science-based solutions into action.
. . . when they involve us all
The nuts and bolts of water quality do involve science. However, it is education that changes our behavior and implementation that makes education successful. Regardless of how much potential science-based solutions provide, citizen awareness and involvement are critical for these solutions to become a reality.
ood news for the Neuse: Improvements in the river's health are forthcoming, thanks to the creation of five agent positions with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. The agents are part of Extension's Neuse Education Team. Their positions result from funding the N.C. General Assembly approved last year to enhance education efforts in the river basin. As a team of problem solvers, the agents will work with other local and state agencies, county government, and citizens to prioritize, identify and focus educational programs to improve the Neuse. All experienced in water-quality and environmental education, the agents will look at the big picture.
"Education is an important component in getting people to recognize their need to make a change," says Dr. Joe Zublena, Extension's assistant director for county operations. "It's easy to think pollution is coming from somebody else's farm or business, not your own. When knowledge is gained, people will know how they affect water quality."
The focus of the positions is to create awareness among different audiences about how to protect water quality, says Dr. Greg Jennings, Extension water-quality specialist at NC State University. "Target audiences include youth, farmers, local governments, homeowners, and urban residents," he says.
The agents will work to educate youth, build coalitions, and help define common goals and visions. By distributing self assessment materials, Extension will help farmers and homeowners pinpoint potential sources of pollution and select the most appropriate best management practices.
The Neuse River project will be coordinated by agent Mitch Woodward. Mitch has been working as the national nutrient management program leader for Cooperative Extension, and has coordinated education efforts related to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Woodward will be based in Wake County and will also support programs in all 17 counties in the basin.
Based in Person County, Craven Hudson will cover the upper Neuse; Person, Durham, Orange, and Granville counties. Bill Lord will cover Franklin, Johnston, Wilson, and Nash counties from a base in Franklin County. Mike Regans will serve Greene, Pitt, Lenoir, and Wayne counties from a base in Greene. They come from previous Extension positions.
David Hardy, who recently completed his Ph.D. in soil science, will be based in Craven County and cover Craven, Jones, Pamlico, and Carteret counties.
Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.