The Catawba River is one of the most intensely utilized rivers in the United States for energy production. This use has a number of different impacts on the River including use of a large amount of water, discharges from coal ash ponds, and other wastewater discharges.
Water Use by Powerplants
Powerplants are the largest single user of water on the Catawba River, accounting for approximately 48% of water use in the basin. These large withdrawals of water, combined with the discharge of warm water, place heavy stresses on the River and it is projected that by 2040 there will not be enough water in the River to meet all of the water demands. Most individuals do not realize that more water is used to generate power for their home than is directly used in the household. Water efficiency and good water management are the best source of affordable water and must be the backbone of water supply planning. For more information, click on one of the links below:
- Report on Energy-Water Collision
- Report on Freshwater Use by U.S. Powerplant by Union of Concerned Scientists or Summary of UCS Report
- Report on Powerplant Water Use by Electric Power Industry
- Map & Information About Water Withdrawals and Discharges - Interactive Google map of municipal water withdrawals and wastewater discharges along the Catawba River and Wateree River
- Overview of water quantity issues in the Catawba basin
- Videos on improving water efficiency
- Library of documents on water efficiency.
- Library of information about water use.
- Library of documents on drought issues.
Coal-fired powerplants present a threat to the waters of Catawba-Wateree basin through multiple routes including coal ash, mercury contamination from air emissions that precipitate into the water, and evaporation as a result of use as cooling water. Burning fossil fuels also threatens the basin by contributing to global warming.
Coal Ash - According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 4 of the top 44 highest hazard coal ash ponds in the United States are located on the Catawba River. Two of EPA's High Hazard Coal Ash Impoundments are located on Mountain Island Lake upstream from the primary water intakes for the Charlotte, Gastonia, Mt. Holly and Belmont. According to 2005 U.S. Dept. of Energy numbers, over 200,000 tons of Coal Ash Waste is stored adjoining the Catawba River in Gaston County and 33,500 tons of coal waste is stored adjoining the Catawba River in Catawba County.
- Click here for overview of coal ash issues
- Click here for video overview of coal ash issues
- Click here for more videos about coal ash issues
- Click here for our coal ash fact sheet
- Click here for coal ash disasters
- Click here for information about coal ash recycling
- Click here for more video reports about coal ash issues
- Click here for library of coal ash documents
Mercury - The North Carolina Dept of Health and Human Services recently estimated that “at least 13,677 children per year” are born in North Carolina with blood mercury levels that place them at risk for lifelong learning disabilities, fine motor and attention deficits, and lowered IQ. Mercury levels in fish have already resulted in statewide fish advisories in North Carolina and South Carolina. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the Carolinas. In addition, mining for coal has buried or polluted 1,200 miles of pristine headwater streams in the Appalachians.
- Click here for a summary of mercury issues.
- Click here for a library of information about mercury contamination.
- Click here for an overview of the issues related to the proposed Cliffside power plant.
- Click here for a library of Cliffside powerplant documents.
There are two nuclear stations (with two units per station) on the banks of the Catawba River - Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie and McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman. Both of these facilities are located on drinking water reservoirs within 20 miles of downtown Charlotte. These units are the largest water users on the River and if there was a serious accident, they have the potential to have a tremendous impact on both the River and surrounding population.
Relicensing of Duke Hydro Project
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is in the process of determining whether and under what conditions to issue a new license to operate the dams on the Catawba River. It is likely that the duration of the license will be for 50 years so it is essential that the license include provisions adequate to address the threats to the Catawba River over the next fifty years. The Catawba Riverkeeper is actively involved in commenting on the proposed license.
- Click here for an overview of the Hydro Project Relicensing.
- Click here for a library of Hydro Project Relicensing documents.
Additional information about various issues relating to the Catawba River and Wateree River is available in our newsletters, which are available online by clicking here. You can also get our electronic newletter by becoming a member and providing us with your email address.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP PROTECT THE CATAWBA RIVER AND WATEREE RIVER, CLICK HERE.
Facts about the River
- Water Quality Facts
- Other Water Facts
- Videos about the Catawba
- 2008 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP PROTECT THE CATAWBA RIVER AND WATEREE RIVER, CLICK HERE.