Jordan Lake water levels reach multi-year low, drawing attention of citizens and officials alike

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Jordan Lake water levels reach multi-year low
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The US Army Corps of Engineers reports water levels at Jordan Lake are four feet below normal, a noticeable impact for people frequenting the area.

PITTSBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- The US Army Corps of Engineers reports water levels at Jordan Lake are four feet below normal, a noticeable impact for people frequenting the area.

On Monday, Jordan Lake sat at 212 feet above mean sea level. Typically the lake sits at 216 feet above mean sea level.

"This is fairly low for Jordan (Lake). It's something we've not seen in quite a few years," said Dana Matics, the Piedmont Assistant Operations Project Manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

"I'm concerned about tearing my boat up. There's stumps out there everywhere now. The water's so low, you can't get 20-30 feet from the shore, so you can't get to the land to get cover to get the ducks," said Arnold Bowling, who is from Fuquay-Varina and was out duck hunting Monday.

About 100 yards away from where Bowling was packing up for the day, Stacey Hoopes and her son were walking on a sandy area, often covered by water.

"We've seen it driving by, and actually it's funny when kids in the car comment on 'hey look how dry it is," said Hoopes.

The changes are clear from Farrington Road, which overlooks Jordan Lake.

"It's a different kind of way to enjoy the lake I guess. Not putting in a kayak when you get right down the ramp and heading off," said Hoopes.

The reason for the low water levels is simple: not enough rain.

"If it does not rain in the watershed above Jordan Lake, then we don't get the run-off, and we don't get the direct benefit from it," noted Matics.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is anticipating a wetter-than-normal winter, which can help address the issue.

There are two pools of water in Jordan Lake, one for water supply, providing to communities in Chatham County, Cary, and Apex, and one which releases downstream. The water supply storage is in good shape, at about 95% full. However, the releases downstream are being affected, leading to the implementation of the drought contingency plan.

"Effectively, lowering or reducing our releases downstream a little bit at a time with all stakeholders downstream -- the state, the county, local municipalities -- all involved, to balance out what we're keeping in our lake to what we're sending downstream," said Matics.

She cautioned that underwater hazards may be more apparent due to the lower levels, and ground often covered by the water is softer and can be difficult to traverse.

Bowling said he would like to see more done to address water levels, adding he's noticed a drop in the number of boaters recently. Despite that, he has no plans to stop coming out.

"I'm 67 years old, I've been duck hunting since I was 18, I'm not going to stop now," Bowling said.

WATCH | Hidden History: The lost community beneath Jordan Lake

When people take their boats out on the waters of Jordan Lake, they may not realize they're floating above an entire buried community, including homes, farms, foundations, and even graveyards.