Third Fork Creek
video summary of the health of Third Fork Creek.
Land that drains into Third Fork Creek is known as its watershed. The Third Fork Creek watershed is an older portion of Durham south of the Durham Freeway. It includes headwaters near Forest Hills and NC Central University. The creek continues southeast from there through Hope Valley and Woodcroft. Many of Durham’s residents live in the Third Fork Creek watershed. The population density is the second highest of Durham’s watersheds.
Water from Third Fork 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.
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. Third Fork Creek was last given a score of 66 in 2018. This compares to a "D" letter grade. This is down from 76 in 2017. This score was given because of:
- Poor bacteria levels
- Fair nutrient levels
- Fair turbidity levels
- Poor aquatic life
Water from Third Fork Creek flows into Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake has recently had problems with algae caused by extra nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus). The State has also created a TMDL (PDF), to help reduce the nutrients in the lake. Because of this, the City also tracks nutrients in Third Fork Creek.
Water Quality Investigations
In the 2018 reporting year, staff found 80 pollution sources. These included:
- erosion and sediment discharges
- private sanitary sewer discharges
- private sanitary sewer discharges
- petroleum spills
- cooking grease spills
Stormwater & GIS 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 Third Fork Creek. Citizens can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.
Watershed Improvement Plan
The Third Fork Creek Watershed Improvement Plan is designed to prevent future water pollution and identifies special projects that can help repair current problems.
Dog Waste Stations
The City was awarded a grant to install dog waste stations in Durham parks. About 25 of these are in this watershed, many along the Third Fork Creek trail.
Residential Rain Garden Project
During the summer of 2012, the city continued the backyard residential rain garden project in the Third Fork Creek watershed, assisted by four students from the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program, and funded by an EPA 319 grant. The
Forest Hills Park Stream Restoration
Working with the State of North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, this project restored 3,000 feet of Third Fork Creek in a highly urban area. The stream banks were rebuilt. The new lower, curvy banks will help connect the stream to overbank areas called floodplains. A of native shrubs and trees was planted along the stream. These plants will help treat pollution and prevent erosion. The State's and are available online, although both documents are fairly technical.
For the latest update on this and other stream restoration projects in the city, check out the Stream Restoration Project Fact Sheet (PDF).
R.N. Harris Stream Restoration
Lead by the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District, this project restored almost 1,000 feet of Rocky Creek at R. N. Harris Elementary School. The project also included a large rain garden (also called a
Water Quality Recovery Program
The Water Quality Recovery Program for Third Fork Creek carries out the state TMDL (PDF). The City prepared this plan in 2009 and submitted it to the NC Division of Water Quality. The City will submit updates with the annual NPDES permit report starting in 2010. Water from Third Fork Creek flows into Jordan Lake. Because Jordan Lake has a TMDL for nutrients, the Water Quality Recovery Program for Third Fork Creek also tracks nutrients.
There are many ways for you to help protect the health of Third Fork 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 one of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. The Haw River Assembly is active in this watershed.