Interbasin Transfer (IBT)

Contributors: Rick Gaskins

The Concord-Kannapolis interbasin transfer threatens the water quality in both the Catawba and Yadkin Rivers.

Catawba Riverkeeper rallied the Catawba-Wateree River Basin to unite and strongly oppose the Concord-Kannapolis interbasin transfer. Record setting attendance at public meetings where more than 1300 citizens, elected officials, local goverments, economic development interests and environmentalists voiced clear opposition to the plan successfully reduced the amount of the transfer to less than half the amount originally requested-10 million gallons.

However, the decision by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to approve the permenent diversion of water from the Catawba River robs the river and its communities of millions of gallons of water that would otherwise protect the environmental health and ecological diversity of the Catawba River Basin. The  EMC decison was based on faulty environmental studies and errors in the procedure. Therefore, Catawba Riverkeeper felt it had no choice but to appeal the decision to grant the partial transfer. The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing us in this case.  

A consortium of local governments in the Basin also filed contested cases challenging the proposed IBT.  The cases have been consolidated together, and the cases are currently in the discovery stage.  Catawba Riverkeeper and local governments are working together to stop millions of gallons of water from being permently drained out of our beloved neighborhood river and to encourage more efficient use of water so that further IBTs are not necessary. To view the petition for the contested case hearing please click Concord Kannapolis IBT Appeal.

In addition to the challenge by Catawba Riverkeeper and local governments to the proposed Concord-Kannapolis IBT, the South Carolina Attorney General filed a case in the United States Supreme Court challenging North Carolina's ability to unilaterally move water out of the Catawba basin and reduce the flow of water in the Catawba as it enters South Carolina.  The video below explains the basis for the South Carolina lawsuit. 


The Supreme Court lawsuit is currently delayed by procedural arguments over whether additional parties will be allowed to participate in the lawsuit (oral argument regarding adding additional parties is scheduled for October 2009).  It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will resolve the procedural issues during the first half of 2010 and that the case will be referred back to a special master for resolution.

Interbasin transfers are bad public policy

Catawba Riverkeeper is generally opposed to inter-basin transfers for several reasons, which are outlined below: 

Source River Impacts:

  • Reduced water flows - fresh water and estuarine ecology and biodiversity depend on flows
  • Downstream communities and aquatic life have less water for daily life
  • Loss of assimilative capacity-water pollution more concentrated
  • Upstream reservoirs drawn down to provide the additional water to meet the new demands of the interbasin transfer

Receiving River Impacts:

  • Increases point source pollution-more wastewater discharged
  • Promotes sprawl in an area that would not otherwise have the water resources to facilitate high growth
  • Increases runoff pollution from resultant sprawl-adds more fecal coliform bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals to the river

Community Impacts:

  • Pits communities against each other because water resources are permently taken from one community and given to another community
  • Results in water wars
  • Years of litigation

Bottom Line: IBT’s steal the health and life from one river while increasing the pollution in another river.  IBT’s lead to the decline of both rivers with costly impacts to aquatic life and the communities that depend on these rivers for drinking water, power production, recreation, tourism and environmental health.

Click here for a library of IBT Documents

Click here for CRWSP Water Reservoir & Expanded Intake documents 

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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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