Haywood water quality a mixed bag
Haywood County consistently has some of the best water quality in North Carolina, according to stream samples collected by volunteers in an ongoing water quality monitoring project orchestrated by Haywood Waterways Association.
Unfortunately, the county also has streams that rank among the poorest for water quality.
Water quality data collected by a network of volunteers over the past 11 years is used to assess pollution — namely sediment levels or chemicals running off into streams — and track changes in water quality over time, assigning the streams a ranking from “excellent” to “poor”.
Here’s a run down on how various streams have been faring, according to the stream sampling.
Streams showing signs of improvement include:
• Jonathan Creek near its confluence with the Pigeon River now has good to excellent water quality. Historically it was rated average to below average.
• Rush Fork used to have some of the worst water quality in the county. It’s now considered average near its confluence with Crabtree Creek.
• Water quality in Plott Creek has improved from below average to good over the past three years.
• The Pigeon River downstream of Canton used to consistently have poor to below average water quality. It’s been rated as average three of the last four years.
Meanwhile, other streams aren’t so great.
• The Cove Creek, Fines Creek and Hyatt Creek watersheds are poor to below average. This is also true in the upper reaches of Rush Fork Creek. These ratings have been consistent since sampling started.
• Water quality in the upper reaches of Jonathan and Raccoon Creeks has degraded to average or below average over the last three years. Both sites used to have good to excellent water quality.
• Ratcliff Cove branch has changed from average to below average over the last two years.
• Eaglenest Creek downgraded from average ratings the past two years to below average in 2006.
The primary source of pollution causing a downturn in water quality is sediment, according to Haywood Waterways sampling. Excess sediment typically comes from road construction, home building, poor agricultural activities, and eroding stream banks.
Meanwhile, excessive nutrients appear to be a problem in the Fines Creek, Hyatt Creek, Raccoon Creek and upper portions of Jonathon Creek watersheds. Nutrients can come from pet waste, livestock manure running into creeks, failing septic systems, and using too much fertilizer on lawns and fields.
This is the 11th year Haywood Waterways has been coordinating sampling in Haywood County. The project now spans 27 sampling sites. Haywood Waterways uses the sampling data in grant proposals written in conjunction with the Haywood Soil & Water Conservation District and Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development Council.
The organizations look for landowners willing to install “best management practices” designed to reduce or eliminate pollution, be it cow manure run-off from a farm or an eroding stream bank in a development.
The Volunteer Water Information Network receives financial support from the Pigeon River Fund and in-kind support from the University of North Carolina-Asheville.