This week on “Wonderful Water,” join WCHL’s Aaron Keck for a conversation with Johnny Reilly, an OWASA lake warden, and Henry Veggian, a Chapel Hill resident and frequent fisherman on our local lakes. You can listen to their full conversation below, and learn about the lakes maintained by OWASA and their role in our local ecosystem and community.

As a lake warden for OWASA, Reilly oversees day-to-day operations for both the Cane Creek Reservoir and University lake. In warm months the lakes are open for recreation, and visitors are welcome to come out to fish, boat, birdwatch, sunbathe and more!

photo via OWASA

“Out at Cane Creek, we rent jon boats, we rent kayaks and canoes, all at a reasonable fee,” said Reilly. “We have a small walking trail that people can come out an enjoy … it’s just a place to reconnect. We have picnic areas, just reconnect with nature in a way that most people can’t.”

That closer relationship with nature and involvement in preservation is crucial to maintaining the integrity of both natural ecosystems and water quality that will eventually be processed through OWASA treatment centers.

“We have a lot of land in the surrounding area that is protected,” said Reilly. “Either it’s owned by OWASA or we have conversation easements on private property. Those are extremely important tools to make sure the water before it even gets to the lake is as clean as it possibly can be.”

Of course, the recreational opportunites at both University Lake and Cane Creek Reservoir are what capture most people’s attention — especially during summer months and the holidays associated with them. Some come for gatherings on the shore or an afternoon paddle to take in the scenery, but people like Henry Veggian spend a healthy amount of time on the lakes.

“I think of the two lakes as having personalities,” said Veggian. “They’re both very different … University Lake is closer, it’s like that friend you see every day. Cane Creek’s a little further out, it’s that friend you haven’t seen in a whioe. You drive a little farther to make that trip, and you catch up. And I love them both, they’re both very different lakes. [University Lake] is more low lying, with different tributaries coming into it. It’s a little smaller, and I paddle a kayak a lot, so that one’s an easy paddle on a day-to-day basis. Cane Creek is at a higher elevation, it has a different personality in terms of its profile, it’s wildlife, and it’s fishing.”

Veggian’s daughter caught her first fish on University Lake, and his catch-and-release philosophy helps to keep the lake stocked with enough fish to allow everyone with a rod and a little bit of patience to catch their own. It’s those small moments of peace and natural connection that make the trip out to one of our local lakes worth it, even it it’s just for a couple hours.

“You’re in town, but you can feel like you’re outside of it for just a moment,” said Reilly.



Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents use roughly 7 million gallons of water a day, and “Wonderful Water” is a monthly conversation sponsored by the Orange Water and Sewer Authority highlighting its work to keep our community growing and water flowing.