The Water of the Catawba

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The municipal use of the Catawba River's water including an interactive map of withdrawals and discharges

Wilson Creek area - waterfall on Steel Creek


Simply put, water is a necessity of life. During average rainfall years in the green mountains, valleys and piedmont of the Carolinas it seems there's a never ending supply of the precious liquid. At normal lake levels within the basin's 11 Duke Energy managed lakes rest 739,022 acre-feet of water being stored for us to drink, bath in, boat on, use in industrial facilities, water our lawns and flush our toilets. That's 240,811,057,722 (240.81 billion) gallons of water in the chain of reservoirs from Lake James to Lake Wateree. In fact, to serve as a source of water and electricity to over 1.3 million people it has been so impounded by dams that in North Carolina the river's longest free-flowing section is just 17 miles long. In the entire basin the longest free flowing stretch of water is only 33 miles long.

Water in lab - sm  

For virtually the entire 300 miles that it flows from its headwaters in the Carolina mountains to its confluence with the Congaree River in South Carolina the water of the Catawba is siphoned off, used, reused, returned and added to before it is eventually allowed to find its way to the Atlantic Ocean. In 2006 water use totaled 420 million gallons per day (MGD) or 323 gallons for every man, woman and child within the river's domain. 


Belmont WWTP aerial sm

After we withdraw and use this valuable resource over 2 dozen municipal waste-water treatment plants return treated effluent (wastewater) either directly or through tributaries back to the Catawba. The City of Charlotte Municipal Utilities Department discharged almost 30 billion gallons alone in fiscal year 2014-15 through its five wastewater treatment plants. It is important to remember, when it comes to wastewater discharges, we all live downstream from someone.


Map of Water Withdrawals & Discharges 

The interactive Google map below provides a look at the locations of the municipal water treatment plants (WTP) and municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) along the Catawba River. Many of the information balloons on the map contain details about these facilities as well as clickable links to more information about water quality and plant performance reports.



This map only shows municipal withdrawals and discharges. Other entities along the river such as Duke Energy and other industrial and agricultural users also take and return water in the Catawba River Basin.



 Go to the Catawba Riverkeeper Home Page by clicking here


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559