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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Let Our River Flow - Catawba is America’s Most Endangered River

Dec 02, 2008 05:52PM
The Catawba River has supported human communities for hundreds, if not thousands of years. From its headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC, the Catawba River moves through the Charlotte metropolitan area and continues through the midlands of South Carolina. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see the Catawba as a flowing river because of thirteen dams that completely alter its flow and form a series of lakes such as Lakes James, Norman, Mountain Island, and Wylie.

Waters of the Catawba River provide drinking water to 1.68 million people and help produce nearly 9,000 megawatts of electricity for our entire region. Several large paper mills and other industries also depend on the Catawba for water supply to sustain jobs in our region. This river provides sustenance and economic benefits to our local communities through recreation, tourism, fishing and hunting.

Earlier this year, the Catawba was declared America’s Most Endangered River, and many are asking that action be taken to protect it. Below average rainfall over the past couple of years continues to limit our water resources. For the past six months, streams in the Catawba basin have hovered around 50% of their historical average while groundwater levels continue to retreat deeper. Recent national forecasts are for persistent drought conditions to continue into Winter 2008/2009. These inadequate precipitation patterns threaten the river’s flow and our water supply that we use to prosper economically and recreationally.

Experts predict if actions are not taken to combat explosive population growth and toxic emissions and to improve water management within the Legislatures of NC and SC in 2009, the Catawba will continue to face insurmountable odds. From the pressures of being sucked dry by unregulated water withdrawals to water-wasting electrical generating processes and unprecedented population growth, the Catawba needs our help so it can remain the healthy and flowing lifeblood of our region.

For more information or to help protect our waters, please contact David Merryman, Catawba Riverkeeper, at 704-679-9494.

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