NC Land Conservation Offers Protection From Another "Flint"
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Flint, Michigan is hundreds of miles away from North Carolina, but images of brown water coming from kitchen taps and tales of illness in children and adults are prompting talk about water quality in this state.
Fortunately, high-quality water is in plentiful supply in North Carolina, particularly in areas west where land conservation groups have protected 31,000 acres in the last five years and the water that flows on the land and through it, according to Jessica Laggis, director with Blue Ridge Forever.
"One of the major goals of land conservation is protecting clean water for everyone," says Laggis. "As we've seen in Flint, when you don't have clean drinking water it's completely disruptive to life, it's one of our basic needs as humans."
Laggis says one inch of rain equates to a gallon of water per square foot of land.
Considering that, Blue Ridge Forever estimates land trusts in western North Carolina protect approximately 53 billion gallons of clean water a year.
Because land trusts offer protection from development for perpetuity, that benefit is seen every year by the thousands of people who drink and use the water for daily living.
Laggis says the protected land and consequent water protection impact people from the Atlantic to the Gulf Coast.
"Being at the top of these mountains, we are such a major headwaters, because we're on the Continental Divide, the water flows both ways," says Laggis. "We're not only protecting the water here for local North Carolinians but that's feeding out exponentially downstream."
Over the last five years, the 10 land trusts in western North Carolina have completed more than 280 land conservation projects. According to the Environmental Protection Association's most recent data in 2014, less than one-percent of the state's water supply is designated as impaired.