*FEATURED* - Northeast Future Street Plan

Natural Resources

Surrounded by water on three sides, New Hanover County’s geography, geology, and landscape make it a truly unique place. The way the county uses and develops land can have a direct effect on the health of the community, so New Hanover County works to balance growth with the protection of important natural resources.

New Hanover County holds land in permanent conservation through conservation easements to make sure the property will not be developed. These land resources have been purchased with grant funds or have been graciously donated, and they serve as vegetative buffers that help protect water quality. The land can also be used for passive recreation areas or for stormwater improvement projects.

New Hanover County’s surface water and groundwater are vitally important. High surface water quality is necessary for the health of the county’s ecosystem, supporting important marine and tourism-related industries. Groundwater is an important source that must be safe to drink and able to supply the county’s growing population.

Surface Water Monitoring

Monitoring surface water quality helps the county learn about the health of water resources. Several agencies monitor the Cape Fear River, tidal creeks, and the creeks that drain into them. New Hanover County works with these partner agencies to compile data for the public, and develop and implement plans to improve water quality.

Groundwater Study

As New Hanover County’s population grows, the county is actively reviewing and monitoring the health of the aquifers that provide some of the county’s drinking water. Information that currently exists has been reviewed by staff and it has been determined that additional information is needed to learn more about groundwater quality and quantity. The U.S. Geological Survey has started a multi-year groundwater study that will provide the county with data needed to make future decisions that will affect groundwater.

Creeks & Watersheds

All of the land in New Hanover County drains to the Cape Fear River or the Intracoastal Waterway. For most of the county, stormwater flows through one of 20 creeks. New Hanover County works with partner organizations to develop plans for the county’s drainage areas, or watersheds. These plans seek to identify ways to use the land in the watersheds in a way that doesn’t hurt water quality.

Plans & Reports


The quality of the air we breathe is very important for public health. Motor vehicles, some industries, and even fires can cause problems, especially for people with asthma or lung disease. Many of the county’s development regulations seek to reduce air pollution by reducing the amount of driving people have to do. The county also has a permit review processes that helps make sure new land uses will not hurt public health.

The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) monitors levels of air quality pollutants across the state. New Hanover County DAQ monitors SO2, ground level ozone, and particulate matter.

View Current New Hanover County Air Quality Data »

Additional Links:

New Hanover County’s Zoning Ordinance includes rules that protect other natural resources such as habitats and marshes.

Tree Retention: These rules protect significant trees from being cut down during development.

Conservation Overlay District: This district limits the use of areas with important natural resources.

New Hanover County works to promote types of development that help protect the community’s natural resources, such as low-impact development and green building. The county has created tools and information that can help developers and homeowners build in an environmentally friendly way.

Low Impact Development (LID)

LID is an approach to developing sites and managing stormwater that includes using or mimicking natural processes in order to protect water quality off site.

New Hanover County staff has worked with the City of Wilmington and other partners to create a LID guidance manual and modeling tool to encourage the use of LID throughout the county.

Green Building

Green building seeks to build in a way that protects the environment and is energy efficient. It is concerned with site design, water management, energy efficiency, building materials, and indoor air quality. Green building can be used for new structures or renovations.


Department of Energy (DOE) –  information about renewable energy, energy-saving strategies, rebates, and tax incentives.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA provides information about green building principles, programs, and funding.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – Leadership for Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, includes ratings for homes, neighborhoods, interiors, existing buildings, and more.

Whole Building Design Guide – a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences, provides a comprehensive overview of whole building design principles and provides extensive resources and publications related to sustainable building design.

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resource (NC DENR): NC Project Green –  case studies, resources and information specific to North Carolina.

NC Energy Division, Department of Commerce – information about the NC Energy Office, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Office for Green Business Development.

NC Green Building Technology Database – projects and case studies from across the state that have implemented strategies and technologies related to green building. Also provides additional links to green resources.

NC Green Power – an energy program designed to supplement NC’s existing power supply with renewable energy sources.

NC Healthy Built Homes Program – a certificate rating system for homes in North Carolina meeting specific green building guidelines.

NC Solar Center at NC State University – information about alternative energy and sustainable design, provides technical assistance and resources.

Cape Fear’s Going Green Magazine – articles about sustainability and green topics throughout the Cape Fear region, also provides a comprehensive overview of green and sustainability-related resources.

Cape Fear Green Building Alliance – a local non-profit that advances education regarding sustainable building practices for industry professionals and the public through monthly meetings and a variety of workshop training sessions. The CFGBA also publishes a comprehensive “Green Directory” of local professionals in green building trades.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) – provides water and sewer services for the residents of the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, also provides water conservation tips and resources for the public

New Hanover County – Environmental Management – provides information about the landfill, recyclable materials, locations of recycling centers, and links to the recycling websites for the City of Wilmington, and the Towns of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach. and Wrightsville Beach.

WAVE Transit – Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, operating as Wave Transit, provides information about alternative transportation (buses, shuttles, trolleys) and also about their Breathe Easy initiatives which includes the Green Wave.

Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association – local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders which has a Green Building Council committee that provides workshops and educational outreach to industry professionals.

Planning and Land Use: 230 Government Center Dr, Suite 110 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7165 • Fax 910-798-7053