Tar-Pamlico Nutrient Strategy


Since the 1980s, nutrient-related pollution has created water quality problems in the Pamlico estuary. Excess amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus have caused problems including low oxygen levels, extensive fish kills and harmful algal blooms. In response to these issues, North Carolina developed the Tar-Pamlico nutrient strategy, a set of rules designed to equitably regulate sources of nutrient pollution in the basin including wastewater, stormwater, and agricultural nutrient sources. The rules also protect riparian buffers and mandate training for professionals that apply fertilizer. The rules went into effect in 2000-2001 and seek to reduce nitrogen levels in the estuary by 30%, cap phosphorus levels at a 1991 baseline, and remove the Pamlico estuary from North Carolina’s impaired waters list.  This fact sheet describes key features of each nutrient strategy rule.


Tar-Pamlico Nutrient Strategy Coordinator
Jim Hawhee
(919) 707-3675

Nonpoint Source Planning Branch Chief
Rich Gannon
(919) 707-3673

Tar-Pamlico Strategy Resources

General Resources

Stormwater and Nutrient Offset

Relatively populous areas in the basin are subject to rules that limit nutrient runoff from new development projects. If necessary, some nutrient loads can be offset by restoration projects in other areas after meeting onsite requirements.  The following jurisdictions are subject to the Tar-Pamlico new development stormwater rules:

City of Greenville | City of Henderson | City of Oxford | City of Rocky Mount |
Town of Tarboro | City of Washington | Beaufort County | Edgecombe County |
Franklin County | Nash County | Pitt County

Resources to assist in compliance with the Tar-Pamlico strategy include:


Agricultural operations in the basin are collectively subject to two nutrient goals: a 30% reduction for nitrogen loading and no increase in phosphorus loading.  

Point Sources

Members of the Tar-Pamlico Basin Association, a consortium of wastewater dischargers, limit their nutrient loading pursuant to an agreement with the Environmental Management Commission, DWR, and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Other wastewater dischargers are also subject to nutrient limits as described in rule.


Riparian buffers are subject to protection under the Tar-Pamlico strategy, with exceptions for uses that existed before the strategy was developed.  Some new uses are allowable as long as impacts are appropriately mitigated elsewhere.

Monitoring and Assessment

DWR and its partners actively monitor water quality in the Tar-Pamlico basin and routinely assess its performance against existing water quality standards.