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Drowning Creek Water Supply Watershed

A true "waterworld"

Up until the drought of 2007, most North Carolinians took the availability of their drinking water for granted. No longer.

Our communities' water woes have highlighted one of Sandhills Area Land Trust's greatest success stories: protecting the water supply for southern Moore County.

Since 1998, SALT has been working with landowners to protect the vital wetlands and forests that feed Moore County's water supply intake on Drowning Creek. Property buffering more than 11 miles of the creeks upstream of the water intake have been permanently protected by SALT, totaling more than 2,000 acres, and adding to the 60,000-acre Sandhills Game Lands. Protecting so much land was not an easy task, involving negotiations with dozens of landowners, juggling multiple funding sources, and a whole lot of patience.

Avid SALT supporter Jesse Wimberly is one of those landowners. Jesse's great-grandfather, Gonsolvo Speight, came to Moore County in 1870 to engage in the business of turpentining. He built the cabin that Jesse currently lives in out of longleaf heart pine that grew on the property. In 2005, SALT received a grant from the NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program to purchase a conservation easement on the property, now known as Lighterwood Farm. A tributary of Drowning Creek flows through the property. "When I have school groups down here a lot of the time they get to playing with sticks and rocks and throwing them in the water. I tell them 'you know you're gonna be drinkin' that water in three days' and all of the sticks come out of the water," Wimberly says.

Drowning Creek is a twisting black water stream with a floodplain that reaches up to half a mile on each side of the creek channel. Rich bottomland and swamp forests border the creek. Vast stands of swamp tupelo and pond cypress trees filter out pollutants and act as a "sponge," reserving water so the creek flows even during dry years. The creek is home to Osprey, River Otter, and other wildlife including several threatened and endangered species. During the spring and fall, migrating songbirds follow the corridor of Drowning Creek in their passage to places north and south.

SALT's work in the Drowning Creek watershed is ongoing, and we are investigating new opportunities all the time. Are you a landowner interested in protecting your land? Check out our Landowner's Page for more information about conservation options offered by SALT. Click here for a map of SALT's land protection priority areas.