York Technical College Study of the Catawba

The following information is summarized from a report on a water quality assessment performed by students at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The purpose of the assessment was to examine the effect of these changes on the quality of life in and around the river corridor adjacent to York, Chester, and Lancaster counties. Data from twelve locations along this corridor is reported.

Lake Wylie Dam aerial 1A

The Catawba River originates in the mountains of North Carolina and flows through a series of lakes and free-flowing stretches for over 200 miles until it meets Big Wateree Creek to form the Wateree River at Wateree Lake. This entire area is the Catawba-Wateree Sub-basin that bisects the north-central portion of South Carolina. Portions of eight South Carolina counties are within the sub-basin boundary, including most of Chester, Kershaw, Lancaster, and York counties, the eastern third of Fairfield County, and small portions of Sumter, Lee and Richland Counties. However, the Catawba River corridor area includes the 30-mile segment of the river below Lake Wylie Dam to SC Highway 9 bridge crossing near the upper reaches of Fishing Creek reservoir. The counties adjacent to the Corridor area include York, Lancaster, and Chester counties. These counties have a combined population of over 218,000 people . This population is projected to grow by at least 13% over the next ten years. (Corridor Plan). This portion of the sub-basin encompasses the metropolitan areas of Rock Hill, York, and Lancaster and is influenced by Charlotte, North Carolina. The Catawba River flows through the Catawba Dam on Lake Wylie near the Town of Old Fort, and is joined by Big Dutchman Creek, Dye Branch, Manchester Creek, and Burgis Creek before accepting drainage from the Sugar Creek watershed. Downstream from the Sugar Creek drainage, the Catawba River flows pass the Catawba Indian Reservation and is joined by Haggins Branch, Sixmile Creek, Ferry Branch, Abernathy Creek, Greene Creek, and the Twelvemile Creek watershed. The Landsford Canal connects the bend in the river where Twelvemile Creek enters. Farther downstream, the river accepts the drainage of Rock Hill Water Spring Branch, Dunn Creek, and the Cane Creek watershed near the Town of Fort Lawn. The Catawba River then flows into Fishing Creek Reservoir, which is impounded by the Fishing Creek Dam. Bear Creek forms an arm of the reservoir. The Catawba River is dammed again just downstream of the Fishing Creek Dam and the flow diverted to form Great Falls Reservoir.

The watershed is dominated by pine and hardwood forests but also contains extensive agricultural lands and urban development. (Wateree). Precipitation is about 45 inches per year, and approximately one third of this amount leaves the basin as streamflow. The remainder is stored as ground water or is lost through evaporation and transpiration. Streamflow is generally lowest in the summer and is highest in winter, and is inversely proportional to the rate of evaporation.

A South Carolina Rivers assessment, prepared by the South Carolina Water Resources Commission in 1988, examined the hydrology of this sub-basin. In this assessment, it was found that, much of the drainage area of the Catawba River, including its headwater streams is located in North Carolina. Major tributary streams in the upper Piedmont portion of the sub-basin include Fishing Creek, Rocky Creek, Big Wateree Creek and Wateree Creek, Sugar Creek, and Cane Creek. Four of these are considered navigable by the SWRC: Twelvemile Creek, Cane Creek, Sugar Creek, and Waxhaw Creek. Two USGS streamflow monitoring stations are located on the main stem of the Catawba River, and one was located on Sugar Creek from 1974 to 1979(Corridor and SCWRC). Stream flow at the main river stations has been subject to regulated releases for most of the period of record due to numerous hydroelectric power facilities located along the river in North and South Carolina.

Controlled releases from the hydroelectric power plants located at Lake Wylie greatly affects streamflow of the Catawba. The South Carolina Water Resources Commission reports that average annual flow in the Catawba River ranges from 4,457 cubic feet per second (cfs) near Rock Hill to 5,348 cfs near Catawba, South Carolina.

Streamflow on Sugar Creek near Fort Mill averaged 461 cfs over its monitoring period. Tributary streams are largely unregulated. The watershed occupies 28,655 acres of the Piedmont region of SC. The predominant soil type consists of an association of the Cecil-Wilkes-Herndon-Georgeville series (DHEC Report No. 002-96). The irritability of the soil (K) averages 0.28; the slope of the terrain averages 10%, with a range of 2-25%. Land use and land cover in the watershed includes 12.85% urban land, 6.98% agricultural land, 4.53% scrub/shrub land, 0.75% barren land, 68.14% forested land, and 6.85% water. The soil erodibilty refers to the properties of the soil itself, which cause it to erode more or less easily than others when all other factors are constant. The soil factor K is the rate of soil loss per erosion index unit as measured (DHEC Technical Report No. 002-96). In the Piedmont region, high relief and impermiable soils result in rapid runoff and limited ground water storage. The streams are characterized by highly variable flows dependent primarily on rainfall and runoff rather than discharge form ground water storage. Streamflow in the upper portion of the Catawba River is well sustained throughout the year (Corridor and SCWRC).

The Catawba River is classified by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as freshwater (FW). This means that the water is suitable for industrial and agricultural uses, recreation, drinking water, after treatment, and for the survival and propagation of plants and animals. The classification standards are set for dissolved oxygen levels, coliform bacteria levels, water temperature and ph. This type of classification prohibits the dumping of garbage or sludge, toxic wastes, or untreated wastewater into the river. SCDHEC has monitored the water quality of the Catawba River in the past. From this monitoring, DHEC reports that the water quality has been generally good. However, waterborne pollution after heavy rains or the accidental discharge or improperly treated wastewater has temporarily lowered the water quality of this body in the past.

As part of the study, data was gathered from several locations shown on the map bleow.  Links to the data from each of locations is contained below.


York Tech Study Map

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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
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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)


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