News Feature | June 30, 2014

Utilities Plan Major Project To Secure Water Supply In Carolinas

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Water utilities in the Carolinas are planning an overhaul of the region's water supply. 

About two million people rely on the Catawba River, also known as the Wateree River, according to WFAE, an NPR news source. "[In May,] the region’s water utilities released what they call the most significant plan for the Catawba’s water supply since reservoirs were built in the early 1900s."

The plan proposes "conserving water, lowering intakes to draw water when lake levels fall, and holding more water in the largest lakes," the Charlotte Observer reported. Rates may go up to deter use. 

The region currently has plenty of water, but population growth is expected to challenge water resources in coming years. 

"The Water Supply Master Plan projects what growth will be and how the water supply can keep up. For instance, demand from Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman is expected to about double, to more than 300 million gallons a day," the WFAE said. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department official Barry Gullet explained the motivations behind the project. 

“By the middle of this century, if we kept doing things the way we were doing them, we wouldn’t be able to attract new people to this area because there wouldn’t be enough water to connect them and then have a reliable water supply going forward during a drought,” he said, per WFAE.

Environmental advocates were not thrilled with the blueprint: "Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins says the plan requires too little sacrifice from Duke Energy, which uses almost as much water as the public," the Observer reported. 

Projections for the area are dire if no changes are made. 

"While a 2006 study projected running out of usable water in 2048, conservation and regional planning in a new model push that date out by more than a century," the Lake Wylie Pilot reported. "While the previous study had about 420 million gallons per day being withdrawn in 2048, the new study doesn’t hit that mark until 2065."

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Image credit: "IMG_0320," Duane Burdick © 2004, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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