In 1932 after the dust storms and economic and agricultural devastation of the 1920s, Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett (a North Carolina native now known as the “Father of Soil Conservation”), urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress to pass legislation to create locally led conservation programs. In 1937 North Carolina became home to the first Soil and Water Conservation District established in the United States: the Brown Creek Soil and Water Conservation District.
The Durham Soil and Water Conservation District dates to March 22, 1939. Originally it was one of five other districts (Durham, Person, Orange, Granville and Wake) that made up the Upper Neuse River Soil Conservation District. In 1965 the Durham District became an independent district with the vision:
“To address all-natural resources on every acre in Durham County in a way that will benefit the environment, wildlife, its people, and the natural resources themselves, plus produce an environmentally conscious group of citizens who will set a trend of conserving, enhancing and promoting our natural resource base.”
Individuals, organizations, companies and governments collaborate with Soil and Water Conservation Districts throughout the country to protect our environment – including our invaluable waterways – so that future generations can enjoy and use these precious natural resources. An excellent example of what can be accomplished when we work together can be seen in Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) collaboration between Durham and Wake County Conservation Districts and their respective community members and local partners.
The CCAP program, initiated in North Carolina in 2006, is a voluntary, incentive-based program designed to improve water quality through contracting with landowners to install various best management practices (BMPs) on urban, suburban and rural lands. Last year, the Durham and Wake Soil and Water Conservation Districts teamed up with several partners, including Duke Energy, N.C. Cooperative Extension and the towns of Apex and Morrisville, to improve water quality in the Jordan Lake watershed.
Made possible by a $100,000 Duke Energy Water Resources Fund grant, the districts’ 29 landowners contracts and 44 installed practices reduced stormwater pollution from 765 acres of land that flows to the drinking water supply of Jordan Lake. These projects resulted in a demonstrable improvement in water quality and hundreds of local community members learned about stormwater management. In addition, the Durham district teamed up with Durham Public Schools and the Durham Youthworks Program to provide local teachers and students with hands-on experience in green infrastructure skills.
Water is a shared resource, and each of us has a role to play in its conservation. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to bring a diverse mix of partners to the table to develop and implement conservation programs that will ensure preservation of our water supply for centuries to come.
Talmage Layton is the chair of the Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District.