Little Lick Creek Watershed

Land that drains into Little Lick Creek is known as its watershed. The Little Lick Creek watershed includes areas east of the city limits between U.S. Highway 70 and Falls Lake. N.C. Highway 98 and U.S. Highway 70 are prominent features of this watershed.

Water from Little Lick Creek flows into Falls Lake. Then it flows into the Neuse River and then the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound before emptying into the ocean.

Stream Water Quality
Stormwater Services staff tracks water quality at three sites in Little Lick Creek. The health and cleanliness of the watershed is reported in Durham’s annual State of Our Streams Report. In years when staff is able to take a wide variety of tests, the watershed is also given a grade. Little Lick Creek was last given a grade of 76 in 2014. This compares to a "C" letter grade. This grade was given because of:
  • High fecal coliform (a bacteria associated with raw sewage) levels
  • High levels of copper that can be toxic to stream life
  • Low aquatic life diversity
The state decided that these water quality concerns keep Little Lick Creek from its intended uses by people and wildlife. The state added the creek to a list of impaired water bodies, also known as the 303(d) list. This means the city will need to take steps to find and reduce sources of pollution in the creek.

Stormwater Projects in Little Lick Creek
Water Quality Investigations
Stormwater Services staff investigates water pollution reported by other city employees and Durham residents. In the 2015 reporting year, staff found pollution sources in 11 investigations. Pollution included sediment, sewage, and yard waste. Stormwater Services encourages neighbors to discuss and discourage putting trash, wash water, grease, or other pollution into storm drains. Anything that goes into storm drains does not get treated in this watershed eventually washes into Little Lick Creek. Citizens can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.

Stream Bank Plantings
This project involved planting more than 200 trees and shrubs along river banks in the Lick and Little Lick Creek watersheds. Plants along stream edges help keep banks stable. They naturally filter pollution out of the water running into the stream. Trees shade creeks and keep them from getting too warm and provide important habitat. Plants along the water’s edge are known as buffers. Learn more about how to improve buffers on the N.C. Clean Water Education Partnership website. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the Home Depot Foundation via the Center for Watershed Protection. The Upper Neuse River Basin Association coordinated the project and the city provided mulch and planting tools. Volunteers from Duke and the community helped with the plantings.

Watershed Restoration Plan
Little Lick Creek is part of the Neuse River basin. The Upper Neuse River Basin Association (in partnership with the city and many other groups) created a watershed restoration plan (PDF) in 2006 for Little Lick Creek. This plan includes information on pollution sources in the Little Lick Creek watershed and ways to improve its health.

This plan is currently being updated by the city. The city has contracted with Wildland Engineering to work with the city's Stormwater and GIS Services Division to prepare an engineering study and assessment of Little Lick Creek Watershed.

Get Involved
There are many ways for you to help protect the health of Little Lick Creek. You can adopt a portion of the creek or volunteer to label storm drains. There are also 2 major stream clean-ups each year. Big Sweep is the 1st weekend in October and Creek Week is the last weekend in March. Email the public education coordinator for details.

Dedicated Groups
You can also join some of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation is active in this watershed.