Moore County Narrowing Future Water Source

The preliminary estimates from the Moore County Water Study alternatives from December 2023 by LCK Engineering.


Staff Writer

Moore County is beginning to narrow its focus on a future water source that would help meet customer demands over the next 20 years or more.

During the county’s Water and Sewer Task Force meeting Tuesday morning, Commissioners Kurt Cook and Nick Picerno, along with other county employees heard an update from Adam Kiker, an engineer and founding partner with LKC Engineering.

Based on growth projections in a recent study, the county could experience a gap between supply and demand as soon as 2029. If nothing is done, and assuming existing contracts to buy water from Southern Pines and Aberdeen don’t renew, the gap would grow to almost 6 million gallons a day by 2032.

The engineering firm earlier this year presented the Board of Commissioners with four options for future water sources, all of which would cost more than $100 million and take several years to design, obtain permits and build.

Of those four, the county appears to be favoring a plan that would draw water from the Deep River near Carbonton.

The first phase of the modified Carbonton project would require constructing an intake on the Deep River, then building pipelines to carry the water.

Because of the low-flow characteristics of the Deep River, a reservoir would likely need to be constructed to store the water. Finally, a water plant that could process 3 million gallons per day would be built.

This first phase of the modified project is estimated to cost over $113 million.

While that initial phase is being built out, the county would need to start the lengthy state permitting process for what’s called an interbasin transfer certification.

The state is divided into river basins, through which water flows. It tightly regulates how much water can be transferred from one basin to the next, so as not to deprive or favor one basin over another.

By quirk of geography, Moore County lies within three river basins, the Deep and the Cape Fear across northern Moore and the Lumber River basin across southern Moore. Taking water out of one and transferring it to another requires a state permit, and the process has been known to take years to complete.

In its plan to draw water from the Deep River basin, Moore County could potentially avoid needing a state permit if it returns water to the basin through treated wastewater discharges. So effectively, water is going out the basin on one side of the equation but going back in on the other.

However, that option comes with its own costs and issues. It would require moving wastewater from the county’s main sewer service area northward to the Deep River, including construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.

Building such sewer infrastructure could lead to an estimated cost of $85 million. Commissioners were skeptical of paying that additional expense.

In summation, the $113 million first phase does not necessitate an interbasin transfer certificate, while the cost of the second phase could fluctuate depending upon the acquisition of an interbasin transfer.

“There is not a whole lot of idle time,” said Kiker “But I would not say this is a ‘hair on fire’ topic. There certainly is, in our opinion, something that warrants attention and investment of resources.”

With about five years until the gap between supply and demand becomes apparent, the county still has time to make an informed decision.

“When we went through this the first time, people got nervous that we were in a crisis,” said Picerno. “We are not in a crisis.”

If the Deep River Carbonton alternative is the option that the county ultimately decides to pursue, then the next steps would be to update the previous financial analysis to account for the new design. Following that update, LKC would create a preliminary engineering report to represent 10 percent of the design.

In that engineering report, LKC would look to plan the intake and pump stations, off-stream reservoir size and property requirements for the project. According to Kiker’s presentation, the pipeline routing, geographic barriers and private easements would be needed.

At that time, the environmental impacts of the project would also be studied to delineate the wetland region. 

In other news the Sewer and Water Task Force on Tuesday also:

* Discussed the Seven Lakes Sewer Project the county is moving forward with. This project would extend public sewer to Seven Lakes, the county’s largest population center still without sewer service.

Commissioners have hired LKC Engineering to design a line that would run west of Pinehurst along N.C. 211 all the way to the Seven Lakes business district.

Clearing has already begun for that roadwork, and the state Department of Transportation is expected to begin widening efforts later this fall. The work is expected to take about three years to finish.

Much is still unknown about the project until engineers develop and offer up a design. Public Works Director Randy Gould said that some of the infrastructure is planned to pass through West End, which could be the location of a future pump station needed to forward sewage toward Pinehurst and, ultimately, on to Addor in southern Moore where the county’s wastewater treatment plant is.

Also unknown is the timing on whether any of Seven Lakes’ residential communities — Seven Lakes North and South, Seven Lakes West and McLendon Hills, specifically — would hook on to the sewer line. For now, the focus is just to extend to the business district only.

“That is a dream coming true,” said Picerno of the sewer extension to Seven Lakes. 

* Discussed the second phase of the Vass sewer project. Currently the county has 125 sign ups to receive sewer connections.  

Back in 2018, the county accepted a low-interest loan and a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division totaling $4.8 million to pay for an extension of the sewer lines, a project commonly known as Phase 2. But the federal agency tossed in a caveat and required 100 new customers to sign up and pay the $1,800 connection fee in advance.

As presented in 2022, plans for Phase 2 included the installation of approximately 36,400 linear feet of an 8-inch gravity sewer line east of U.S. 1, 5,600 feet of a sewer force main, two lift stations and related equipment. The project was initially bid in May; however, only one bid was received and it was over budget. The decision was made to divide the work into four separate contracts.

The first contract with SKC, Inc. is set to be completed this month, with some customers potentially being able to hook up in April. Future contracts are expected to come online later this year.

* Heard from the Town of Cameron, which is requesting the county look into having sewer in its downtown. Currently, the entire town runs on septic service, which has caused a few businesses in the downtown to run into issues with state regulations.

Contact Elena Marsh at (910) 693-2484 or