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monsoon

Water Wars

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In what could be sign of things to come the Lake Norman marine commission has nixed a plan to pump tens of millions of gallons of water/day out of the Catawba river basin, and into the Cabarrus county area which is in a different basin. The plan was to build a pipeline out of Lake Norman through Mooresville and over to fill up Lake Howell in Concord which was formed by daming up Coddle Creek. This artificial lake is located on Hwy 73 near Concord and feeds the water treatment plants there. It apparently does not hold enough water to meet the needs of growth proposed for that area.

I had heard that something like 36 million gallons/day could have been pumped out of Lake Norman and the Catawba system to feed this pipeline. It should be noted that all of the intakes for Charlotte's water supply is located downstream from this proposed pipeline. I can see the day coming when there won't be enough water even without the pipeline being built. Most people don't realize the huge growth in Mecklenburg is made possible by the very remarkable, and also very little recognized water system that we have in this county.

This is the first instance that I am aware where one set of communities in this area has refused to supply water to another set because they are afraid of running out.

More in this article.

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I wonder what this will mean for Cabarrus County. When I was younger I used to ride by Lake Howell every day on my way to school and now it is FAR below the levels that it once was. There once was an island in the middle of the lake, it is now a peninsula.

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The Commission does not have the authority to stop the transfer. They only voted to voice their opposition to the request. CMUD would supply the water to Concord and Kannapolis. They could pull out of the arrangement (unlikely), or the state could deny the IBT request (possible, but not a slam dunk).

I think the Environmental Management Commission will approve a transfer up to a limited amount, but maybe not the whole 36 million (20 of which would come from the Catawba basin, 16 from the Yadkin).

Concord and Kannapolis have argued that their economic future rides on the ability to secure more water. That is fine, but communities above and below Lake Norman are also dependent on the water for various reasons and their concerns should be heard too.

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I believe a bill introduced in the NC Legislature to stop this project. It was co-authored by one of the Mecklenburg legislators but I suspect that every community that borders the river will vote for it.

The lake levels in Lake Norman are a lot lower this summer which makes boating a lot trickier near the shores. And the submerged beach on Moutain Island lake is no longer submerged. It's a sign that more water is going out this year than coming in.

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The NC Div. of Water Resources held a public hearing last night in Valdese on the plan to pump water out of the Catawba basin over to Concord/Kannapolis. According to the paper there were almost 900 people at the meeting and it got fairly emotional when the Cabarrus delegation took the stage as they were greeted by boos, and catcalls of "NO!" by those in attendence. Many held up big yellow signs saying "NO". If this meeting is any indication, there isn't going to be any support for this plan.

To be fair, it seems a bit unfair to have held this meeting in Valdese which is more than an hour and half drive from Concord.

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I understand the opposition but it surprises me that, despite the studies of the impact this would actually have on the basin, normal people would drive out to Valdese just to BOO. I wonder if they realize that they are severely limiting two cities which may become very important to our state in the future due to the Research Campus. And their main arguement is greed, why extend the period which they would have to be tight on water in a drought if they can force another, much larger city to limit its growth?

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I heard that 80 million gallons a day was the amount to be pumped into Concord/Kannapolis from the Catawba River. Being that this is a significant water source for York County as well, state legislators from both Carolinas are now involved. My ecological anthropology professor mentioned this in class the other day, and said that this actually revolves around the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis. Interestingly enough, this example came up in reference to carrying capacities and limited resources and how countries might be going to war over water sometime in the future. The discussion got pretty bleak at that point, LOL.

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The EMC had previously held a public hearing on UNCC's campus, which is technically outside the Catawba River basin. Several communities upstream felt that a public hearing was needed for the upper part of the basin, so Valdese was chosen. There will also be another public hearing in the Charlotte area in a few weeks. I would imagine the Concord-Kannapolis folks will turn out in greater numbers then.

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.... I wonder if they realize that they are severely limiting two cities which may become very important to our state in the future due to the Research Campus. And their main arguement is greed, why extend the period which they would have to be tight on water in a drought if they can force another, much larger city to limit its growth?

Sure they realize it. They want to make sure that if gowth is to come to western NC, its not going to be at expense of their water. Why give concord your water so that it can grow instead of keepking it so it can offer growth instead? That is the question they have answered

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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is opposing the transfer of water from the Catawba River basin to Concord and Kannapolis (surprise, surprise). From TheState.com:

Gov. Mark Sanford sent a letter Friday to North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley opposing an application to transfer millions of gallons of water a day from the Catawba River to Concord and Kannapolis, N.C.

His letter joins that of U.S. Reps. John Spratt and Jim Clyburn asking that a request to withdraw up to 36 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba River and up to 10 million gallons a day from the Yadkin River be denied.

Concord and Kannapolis, N.C., would use the water for drinking water and will treat and empty the wastewater in the Pee Dee River.

South Carolina officials are worried the water transfer would strain drought responses for residents along the state

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Yes the last public hearing on the matter is at Olympic HS in Charlotte at 6pm tonight. They expect more than 1000 people to be there.

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Looks like this war is heating up a bit. The NC Environmental Management Commission recently authorized Concord and Kannapolis to draw 10 million gallons a day from the Catawba (which is less than what was originally requested), but SC Attorney General Henry McMaster said he will ask the US Supreme Court to toss out the decision on constitutional grounds. McMaster said NC can

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Sounds like the Lake Gaston water wars some years ago. In the end Hampton Roads got their pipeline.

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But NC and VA were generally behind that agreement. There was money in it for NC.

The Supreme Court takes a very broad view of "interstate commerce" and I would not take SC's suit lightly.

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The Supreme Court takes a very broad view of "interstate commerce" and I would not take SC's suit lightly.

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In parts of the river during the summer now, there are places where the water level drops to less than 2 feet because so much water is being drawn out of it now. I am talking about places above I-40 north of Lake Norman. I can't imagine what will happen when Cabarrus starts sucking out another 10M gallons.

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NC has the population, the money, political clout to get their way...

In summary of my post: For SC to win, I think the Palmetto state will have to prove beyond doubt to the Supreme Court that "its" people and industry are already using this disputed 10 million gallons of water per day. I very much doubt that they can do this, so I see the environmental argument being their next best bet.

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I was curious to know what the range of discharges on the Catawba River have been over the last several years. I found this website off google with data from a USGS(?) river gauge in York County near the town of Catawba, SC.

https://www.dnr.sc.gov:4443/pls/hydro/river...?stnid=02147020

(I hope this database is accurate)

I looked up the mean discharge of the Catawba River here (in cubic feet per second) for each year starting with 2000 and converted it to total discharge per year and month in acre-foot increments.

(43560 cubic feet = 1 acre-foot)

2000 - 2363 cfs --> 1,710,741 acre-feet

2001 - 1847 cfs --> 1,337,173 acre-feet

2002 - 2105 cfs --> 1,523,957 acre-feet

2003 - 7336 cfs --> 5,311,043 acre-feet

2004 - 4388 cfs --> 3,176,780 acre-feet

2005 - 4378 cfs --> 3,169,541 acre-feet

2006 - 3243 cfs --> 2,347,835 acre-feet

Now for the more demanding summer months (I couldn't calculate stream flow for the dry summers of 2001 & 2002... damn site!). These are the mean values between 2000 and 2006. The site doesn't report the error/uncertainty in their measurements so I cannot give a full statistical treatment (my disclaimer for any statistics afficionados out there)

Jun - 4798 cfs --> 285,481 acre-feet

Jul - 3892 cfs --> 239,358 acre-feet

Aug - 4618 cfs --> 284,007 acre-feet

Sep - 2848 cfs --> 169,456 acre-feet

Now in my last post, I calculated that the daily withdrawal proposed by Cabarrus was ~31 acre-feet of water per day or 1120 acre-feet per year. For reference, southern Nevada is allocated ~330,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water per year and this supports a valley population of ~ 1.8 million (plus 100,000 tourists a day). Me thinks SC needs to shut up! :cry:

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good point krazeeboi (I didn't address your's and monsoon's posts in my last post, ya'll came at it quickly and I'm a slow typer.)

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Well that's Tim Funk's opinion about who has more "political clout".

I thought I remember hearing several years back that Charlotte and Mecklenburg Co. were not so keen on Cabarrus Co.'s plan of transferring this water into the Pee Dee River basin either. This would weaken my earlier argument about this coming down to a NC vs SC issue, and in turn support krazeeboi's last point. I still feel however, that Cabarrus will have NC's blessing as econimic prosperity for them equates to prosperity for the entire state.

Commodity battles always seem to take interesting twists... I guess we'll find out the answers when all's said and done with the courts.

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Well that's Tim Funk's opinion about who has more "political clout".

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Another reason why the interbasin transfer request should be rejected: the Catawba now ranks as the most endangered river in America. The rapid growth along the waterway, coupled with limited water supplies and neither NC or SC doing enough to conserve water and control river withdrawals, led to the river taking the top spot on the nation's most endangered rivers list.

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I saw that article too. Probably not the attention we would like to be getting, but I think this state should absolutely be blasted for not doing what it should to quell the type of developments going up all along the Catawba and elsewhere. Honestly I hope this makes people take a second look before moving here so that a big message is sent to developers and county commissioners. I really hope its not too late to save this river, because another few years of fast-paced development and dry weather and we'll all be screwed.

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The Catawba basin in NC and down to lake Wateree in SC is controlled by Duke Energy, not the state. They were granted a 1/2 century license to pretty much do with it as they please. Duke seeing a license to print money in this license, formed a real estate subsidiary called Crescent Resources to develop the land on the lakes and the banks of the rivers. Crescent has done a horrible job of management by choosing to line the lakes they control with McMansions. It's most striking if you go to a federal lake such as Lark Hartwell in SC where the lake is close to pristine, to one like Lake Norman where its pretty much a solid wall of houses.

The Charlotte area is surrounded by 3 lakes (Norman, Wylee and MIL plus boarders the Catawba river, yet there is relatively no public access to these lakes because it's all been sold off as private property.

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^Well that doesn't sound like a shady deal. If Duke has it for a half century, the river might be screwed after all.

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