Ellerbe Creek Watershed

Ellerbe Creek 2018_ A Snapshot (1)
See past Ellerbe Creek report cards: Watch a video summary of the health of Ellerbe Creek.
Land that drains into Ellerbe Creek is known as its watershed. The Ellerbe Creek watershed includes the downtown area north of the downtown ridgeline. Neighborhoods in this watershed include:
  • Old Five Points
  • Old West Durham
  • Parts of Walltown
  • Trinity Heights
  • Trinity Park
Commercial areas include:
  • Ninth Street
  • North Pointe
  • Northgate Mall

Water Impacted

Ellerbe Creek has the highest population density of Durham’s watersheds. Water from Ellerbe Creek flows into Falls Lake. Then it flows into the Neuse River and then the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound before emptying into the ocean.

Water Quality

The health and cleanliness of the watershed are 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 score. Ellerbe Creek was last given a grade of 75 in 2017. This compares to a "C" letter grade. This is up from a 73 in 2016. This score was given because of:
  • Poor fecal coliform (a bacteria associated with raw sewage) levels
  • Poor aquatic life
These water quality concerns keep Ellerbe Creek from its intended uses by people and wildlife. The State has 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.

Water Pollution Investigations

119 sources of pollution were investigated and eliminated during the 2016-2017 reporting year. This is up from 112 sources during the 2015-2016 reporting year. These investigations were related to:
  • yard waste
  • sediment and erosion control
  • improper housekeeping practices
  • grease/cooking oil/food 
  • petroleum

Watershed Improvement Plan

This plan is designed to further evaluate pollution sources and identify specific projects and measures to prevent future water pollution and help repair current problems. The final goal of this plan is the development of an implementation strategy.

Learn more about other stormwater projects currently underway in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed.

Get Involved

There are many for you to help protect the health of Ellerbe 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.

You can also join some of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Friends of South Ellerbe Creek, and the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation are all active in this watershed.