The Catawba River has been a source of life and livelihood for the North Carolina Piedmont area for thousands of years. Long before the colonization of North America, the Catawba Indians were among the first people who relied on the river for food and water. Fast forward to present day: the Catawba River flows for two hundred and twenty miles from North to South Carolina, eventually feeding into the Wateree River. Throughout its course, it provides water and electricity to over two million people, making it a critical resource. At present the river faces many threats, including pollution from coal ash, drought conditions, and over consumption from an ever increasing population. If the river is not properly managed by Duke Energy, utility companies, and individual consumers, the two million who rely on the river might face the day where their lights remain dark and faucets dry.
There are a number of threats to the quality and quantity of the Catawba River, including:
- Water contamination through agricultural runoff, sewage disposal, industrial pollution
- Sedimentation of the river from rapid development
- Climate change reducing the overall quantity of water with unpredictable rain flow and increased evaporation
- Individual’s with riparian rights have nearly unlimited access to siphon water from the river and reservoirs
- A lack of committee for the various stakeholders of the river to plan the future of the river together
- Duke Energy’s unprecedented control over a river by using water for energy production and ability to transfer water from the Catawba Basin to other basins