Over the last few decades, North Carolina water policy regarding regulation and management of its various watersheds, has remained fairly unchanged. Yet, recently new energy and water demands resulting from rapidly increasing populations around urbanizing areas has forced N.C. policy makers and state legislatures to consider changes to the master water management plan for North Carolina. However, while these water policy modifications have helped water conservation and quality across the state, it has so far failed to address a key issue plaguing rivers such as the Catawba, withdraw limits for whomever wishes to take water from an river in N.C. Currently, any N.C. resident, business, or corporation is entitled to any amount of water they need or desire from public/state managed water sources. This means that all across the Catawba River’s flow path people can take as much water as they want, whenever they want it. Primarily, these characters come in the form of N.C farmers who run agriculture and livestock farms all across the Catawba River region. Some of these farms can require nearly 10,000 gallons of irrigation water a day during certain crop seasons and beef stocks along the river require nearly the same amount on a daily basis. That adds up to a considerable amount water being removed from the Catawba daily and nearly none of it being returned he Catawba River basin since most of this water will be exported to other regions in the form of produce and meats, similar to situations seen in California. As California has shown, this exacerbates water shortages. but that’s not all. The fact that a high percentage of unlimited water withdraw from the Catawba is for agricultural/private land use, irrigation runoff has become a serious issue. Higher levels of livestock fecal coli-form and fertilizer nitrates/phosphates are being introduced into the Catawba River system more than ever, so as long as unchecked water withdraw remains legal, issues such as the ones d become worse and worse. This could eventually lead not only to water shortage in the future, but also to serious degradation of water quality within the Catawba River watershed area. More likely than not, N.C policy maker will address this issue sooner than later, and the problems N.C residents are seeing now with rivers like the Catawba will become a thing of the past or at least not a greater problem in the future.
Picture of a news story covering high level of livestock coli-form in the Catawba in 2010
A Duke Power station, withdrawing thousands of gallons daily from the Catawba