Overview of Water Quantity Issues

North Carolina needs better water management!

Clean water is essential for life.  Abundant rivers have been a key, if often overlooked, contributor to North Carolina’s economy and quality of life, used for energy generation, drinking, and recreation.   

Belmont Water Intake November 2007In 2007 and 2008, North Carolina experience one of the worst droughts in recent years.  The lack of rain was compounded by increased demands for water from the Catawba River, which makes us more vulnerable to the consequences of drought.  (The photo to the right shows the water intake for the Town of Belmont on Lake Wylie in November 2007.)  As North Carolina’s population swells by an estimated 2 million people over the next 15 years, many communities will face tough choices about water use.  Based upon current trends we could run out of water within the next 30 years during "normal" years, not just during droughts. 

The water use that results in the largest net loss of water from the Catawba basin is cooling water for power plants. 

How We Use Water in the Catawba Basin

Most individuals do not realize that more water is used to generate power for their home than is directly used in the household.   (For more information about the energy-water collision, click here.)   Water use by average family of four.Thus, any plan to reduce water use should address methods of reducing the amount of water used to cool power plants. 

The time to start making changes and planning for future water shortages is now.  A few sensible changes now in the way we manage water can go a long way to ensure we retain a strong economy and healthy environment.    

We are urging state leaders to:

(1)     Require efficient use of water.   North Carolina can take significant steps forward in water use efficiency.  In 2000 (the most recent federal data), North Carolinians used an estimated 177 gallons of water per capita per day; the most efficient states used between 109 -137 gallons.  More efficient water use means existing supplies can reach further, and also saves money: businesses and residents can spend less on water, and local governments can spend less on expanding the capacity of water supply and treatment systems.   Governor Michael Easley has called for greater water efficiency in new residential and commercial buildings; we urge the state legislature to adopt efficiency standards for new construction.  

(2)     Link growth decisions to water supplies.  No matter how efficiently we use water, we’ll eventually run into problems if we approve more residential and commercial water use than supplies can meet during a drought.  Unfortunately, state law does not link growth decisions to available water supplies.  Local governments in rapidly growing counties are continually trying to catch up with the needs created by development – for new schools, police and fire stations, and water supplies.  We are urging the state legislature to require that local governments, before approving new development, make sure that water supplies and system capacity will be adequate to meet the new demand even in dry years.

(3)     Support rainwater capture.  Some years North Carolina doesn’t get enough water; other years, we get way too much, causing flooding.  While some flooding is natural, we’ve made it worse by paving over large areas of the state, causing water to run off immediately rather than soaking in to recharge groundwater supplies.  There’s one solution that helps with both drought and flooding: rainwater capture – in rain barrels, cisterns, or rain gardens – keeps water around when we need it for a dry spell, and reduces flooding downstream during stormy weather.  We urge the state legislature to provide incentives and cost-share funding to promote rainwater capture across the state.

Support a wise water future for

North Carolina

More information:

  • Click here for videos on improving water efficiency
  • Click here for a library of documents on water efficiency.
  • Click here for a library of information about water use.
  • Click here a library of documents on drought issues.
  • Click here for a link to NC website on low inflow protocol for the Catawba River


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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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    Fish Advisories

    fish consumption chart crop

    Fish consumption advisories have been issued throughout the Catawba-Wateree River basin.  Many of these advisories are the result of testing initiated by Catawba Riverkeeper and confirmed by state and local officials.  For a chart identifying fish types with the applicable advisories for the Charlotte area, click here.   For more information about the fish advisories, click here.

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