As we envision a post-pandemic recovery, the Haw River Assembly has ramped up our efforts to respond to the climate crisis. We are researching local watershed impacts, and partnering with other organizations in the state on current climate impact issues, and urgent policy and regulatory changes. We support an economic recovery that puts climate solutions and climate justice at the forefront. We invite you to join us in this effort through our How To Take Action section. As our society safely opens up, we hope to have in person events to expand this work.
How Climate Change Impacts the
Haw River Watershed
Much of the information for these summaries was derived from the two major North Carolina reports released this spring: the “North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan” from Governor Cooper’s administration and the North Carolina Climate Science Report by North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, an inter-university project.
- Local Climate Change Impacts on Precipitation, Storms & Flooding: Although it is thought that annual precipitation may likely increase in NC with climate change, there is not a clear predicted trend yet. However, extreme rainfall during anyone storm event has already begun, and three of the 5 biggest floods on the Haw River in the past 25 years have happened since 2018.
- Limits on Drinking Water Supply: Drinking water resources stressed by climate change will be further impacted by a growing population in the Haw River watershed. Many municipal and industrial water supplies use surface waters, impounded in reservoirs as their primary source. Low stream flows and lake levels resulting from drought can result in poor water quality.
- How Climate Change Impacts Wastewater Systems: Wastewater treatment is also affected by population growth as well as flooding, and aging infrastructure. Climate change will bring new challenges as more frequent extreme storms can overwhelm our wastewater treatment systems.
- Local Climate Change Impacts on Drought: It is expected that severe drought impacts will become more frequent in the future as temperatures rise in North Carolina, including the Piedmont.
- Extreme Weather Changes in the Piedmont: Hurricanes, winter weather and tornadoes and thunderstorms are all all going to see a difference with climate change.
- Climate Justice: In North Carolina, structural racism resulted in many African American, as well as Hispanic and Indigenous communities, being pushed to less historically desirable lands such as floodplains or near industrial sites or highways where air pollution is high. The impacts of climate changes are piled on top of centuries of environmental, social, economic, and health burdens.
- Increased Temperatures: Temperatures have been increasing in the Piedmont since the 1970s and have remained consistently above average since the 1990s. Warmer summer nights and warmer winters are primarily responsible for the overall annual increase.
- Impacts of Increased Population and Population Density in the Piedmont of North Carolina: Increases of population exacerbate many impacts of climate change, including more stress on natural resources, including water supplies. Increased urban density can lead to hotter cities. See the summary for population projections for counties in the Haw watershed.
- Biodiversity Collapse in the Haw River Watershed: Changes are already being seen in the decline of natural ecosystems and species in the Piedmont, We must act quickly to protect and increase natural areas and habitat.
- Climate Change and Agriculture and Forestry: Agriculture and climate change are deeply intertwined. As the population continues to increase the concern surrounding the effects of global warming on food supply and forests does too.
How To Take Action
Add Forest Protection to Stimulus Funding: As Congress debates stimulus funding, the forest products industry is pushing for policies that would increase logging. Forest protection in the US is an important part of a just solution to the climate crisis. Forest defense is climate defense. To avoid catastrophic climate change, letting forests grow to soak up carbon is as essential as getting off fossil fuels. Send a message to Congress here.
CAFO Project: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or factory farms, produce high levels of manure, adding to greenhouse gases. Increased floods with climate change can mean more of that manure runs off into our streams, adding to water pollution. Find out who your sustainable local farmers are on our webpage, and support them.
Chatham Park: Over 7000 acres of forested land that are helping absorb carbon will be turned into housing and commercial development on the Haw and Jordan Lake. HRA leads the call for more protection for the environment and waters as this mega development is built. NC DEQ recently denied Chatham Parks 401 permit for North Village, halting development for now. Learn more and join us in protecting water and forests.
MVP Southgate: Mountain Valley Pipeline is a fracked gas pipeline proposed to extend through Rockingham and Alamance counties. After years of challenges, the state has denied the MVP Southgate 401 permit for stream crossings, stopping construction in NC. MVP is working to get approval for an extension of that pipeline, MVP Southgate, that will take it an additional 70 miles from southern Virginia into central North Carolina. If approved, the MVP Southgate project will cut through Rockingham and Alamance counties, ending at a point just south and east of Graham, below 1-85-40.
Plastics Free Campaign: Plastics are made from fossil fuels and discarded single-use plastics end up in our rivers and oceans, eventually braking down to the smallest microplastics particles. While this has an immediate effect on local wildlife, it also has a long-term effect on climate and our public health. See who participated in our individual “Plastic Free Haw” campaign and find out what happens when you participate.
Tell Governor Cooper – Declare a Climate Emergency: As governor, Cooper has broad authority under the N.C. Emergency Management Act to take proactive measures to help stem the impacts of climate disasters instead of responding to one disaster after another. Urge Governor Cooper to Stop Duke Energy’s Gas Expansion. Send in your comment today!