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The Nature Conservancy Announces New Approach to Cape Fear River Conservation

Water Fund Will Help Upstream Property Owners with Land Management and Conservation


Wilmington, NC | October 29, 2013

Today The Nature Conservancy announced that it is beginning the process to create a water fund to help improve water quality on the Lower Cape Fear River. A water fund is a collaborative, voluntary, long term approach to watershed conservation where water users and other interested parties invest in upstream lands to improve management and conserve natural areas in order to maintain clean water.

“We’ve been talking with large water users, researchers, agricultural extension agents, government agencies, conservation organizations, and others about this proposal,” explained Conservancy Science Director Dr. Rebecca Benner. “The Conservancy and other groups have worked on the conservation of the Cape Fear River basin for many years. The water fund represents an opportunity to bring in new players and build new collaborations and, with this, new ideas for helping achieve long term conservation goals."

The Conservancy is focusing on the Lower Cape Fear River between Lock and Dams 1 and 2. “The area between Lock and Dams 1 and 2 is important for people and nature,” said Benner. “New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties get their drinking water there. There is a rich diversity of aquatic species living there, and it is critical for migratory fish that must go upstream to lay their eggs.”

The Lower Cape Fear has increasingly had problems with algal blooms. Nutrients play a role in the blooms in conjunction with reduced river flow and high temperatures. Reducing nutrients going into the river upstream could help prevent future problems.

The Nature Conservancy and others are working to:

• Better understand the sources of the nutrients;
• Develop a set of feasible conservation practices that could be financed in the watershed to reduce nutrients; and
• Quantify how these improvements reduce risks to water quality.

Next steps include developing a long term financial mechanism and governance plan for the water fund to ensure that there are lasting investments in the watershed.

“A water fund can be a win for everyone,” said Dan Ryan, Longleaf Project Director in the Conservancy’s Wilmington Office. “Water users have a vested interest in finding low-cost sustainable options for maintaining clean water and upstream landowners have the opportunity to be compensated for investing in practices that might interest them.”


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.

Contact information

Debbie Crane
Communications & Marketing
American Tobacco Campus
334 Blackwell Street, Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 794-4373 or (919) 619-8613
dcrane@tnc.org

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