The Roanoke River basin extends from north central North Carolina almost to the coast. With 2,414 stream miles, this basin comprises 3,493 square miles or 6.4% of the state. However, only 3.9% (263,661) of the population lives in this area. The primary sources of water in this river basin are from surface water resources.
The western section of the basin lies within the Piedmont and supports trout while the eastern portion includes one of the largest intact and least disturbed bottomland hardwood forests in the mid-Atlantic region. Over half the land area of this basin is forested.
All or portions of 17 North Carolina counties lie within the Roanoke drainage area. These counties are Beauford, Bertie, Caswell, Forsyth, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Martin, Northampton, Orange, Person, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Vance, Warren, and Washington. Over 60% of the Roanoke Basin lies within the state of Virginia.
The water quality in this river basin is generally good. Although only 9% of the streams are impaired, 27% of the streams are threatened, primarily from polluted runoff. Sediment is the major concern.
Of the twelve lakes in the basin, five support their uses, three are threatened (Kerr, Roxboro, White Millpond), and four (Belews, Hyco, Gaston, Raonoke Rapids) only partially support their uses. Nutrients and excess selenium, along with sediment, are the major pollutants.
In addition to the basin-level project on tillage and runoff, North Carolina State University researchers are conducting 17 regional projects that are directly applicable to this river basin. Some of these projects target the effects of water pollution on the aquatic resources, while other projects focus on the control of polluted runoff from agricultural land uses. There are also urban stormwater control projects.