Access to water. Make no mistake, city and counties see water rights as an absolutely critical economic development issue. If there’s no water available, there can be no population or job growth. And that’s particularly true if a community is seeking to attract manufacturing to the area.

Today’s case in point: Monday’s hearing on the legality of a proposed 24 million gallon-a-day transfer from the Cape Fear watershed to Cary, which Fayetteville is challenging. The Fayetteville Observer describes what is at stake:

Fayetteville officials fear a precedent will be set with the state decision, and in court documents they have argued the environmental commission and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality “exceeded their authority or jurisdiction, acted erroneously, failed to use proper procedure, acted arbitrarily or capriciously” and failed to follow state law in such matters.

Specifically, the state panel approved a modification to the municipalities’ “Interbasin transfer” – also called IBT – certificate, which already allowed them to transfer 24 million gallons of water from the Cape Fear basin to the Neuse.

“The objective is to present analysis of the law and statements of fact to show that the IBT certificate was not properly evaluated,” Carolyn Justice-Hinson, a PWC spokeswoman, said in an email Thursday. “Proper evaluation would have required the return of treated wastewater to the Cape Fear River.”

When similar concerns were raised in 2001, the state made Cary build the $290 million Western Wake Regional Water Reclamation Facility on the Cape Fear. It opened in 2014.