New Hope Creek

Land that drains into New Hope Creek is known as its watershed. Most of the New Hope Creek watershed is in Orange County. The watershed includes the Town of Chapel Hill, part of the Duke University campus, and commercial areas such as South Square. It also covers the southwestern part of Durham County.

Water from New Hope Creek flows into Jordan Lake. From there it flows into the Haw River and then to the Cape Fear River. This river is the only one in North Carolina that empties directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

Stream Water Quality
Stormwater Services staff tracks water quality at nine sites in New Hope Creek. The health and cleanliness of the watershed is reported in Durham’s annual State of Our Stream Report. In years when staff is able to take a wide variety of tests, the watershed is also given a grade. New Hope Creek was last given a grade of 87 in 2013. This compares to a "B" letter grade. This grade was given because of:
  • High fecal coliform (a bacteria associated with raw sewage) levels
  • High nutrient levels that can cause too much algae to grow
The state decided that these water quality concerns keep New Hope 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 New Hope Creek
Water Quality Investigations
Stormwater Services staff investigates water pollution reported by other city employees and Durham residents. In the 2014 reporting year, staff found pollution sources in 37 investigations. They included:
  • Grease/cooking oil discharges
  • Sediment
  • Sewage
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 and, in this watershed, eventually washes into New Hope Creek. Citizens can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.

Upper Sandy Creek Restoration Project
Many groups came together to restore about 3,600 feet of stream. The stream banks were rebuilt. The new lower, curvy banks will help keep nearby areas from flooding. A buffer of hundreds of shrubs and trees was planted. These plants will help treat pollution and prevent erosion. A wetland that helps treat water pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, was also built. This project will help prevent erosion and improve water quality in Sandy Creek, New Hope Creek, and Jordan Lake. Learn more about this project.

Sandy Creek Park Stream Restoration
In summer 2003, a stream restoration project was completed on 2,461 linear feet of Sandy Creek in Sandy Creek Park. Also, a wetland restoration project on 3.1 acres was conducted as part of this project. The goals of the stream restoration were to improve water quality, reduce flooding, and restore aquatic and riparian habitat. The project site was the former City of Durham New Hope Creek Waste Water Treatment Facility.

For the latest update on this and other stream restoration projects in the city, check out the Stream Restoration Project Fact Sheet (PDF).

Get Involved
There are many ways for you to help protect the health of New Hope 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. Contact 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 New Hope Audubon Society, the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, and the Haw River Assembly are active in this watershed.