No Progress on Catawba-Wateree, America’s Most Endangered River
Eight months after "Most Endangered River" listing, hope lies in upcoming legislative sessionsDecember 11th, 2008
Gerrit Jöbsis, American Rivers, 803-771-7114
Dave Merryman, Catawba Riverkeeper, (704) 679-9494 ext 3
Columbia, SC — Eight months after American Rivers named the Catawba-Wateree America’s Most Endangered River™for 2008, legislators in South Carolina and North Carolina still have not acted to improve water management. American Rivers and local partners are calling on North Carolina and South Carolina to implement sensible water supply and water efficiency policies throughout the Catawba-Wateree basin. The states should also pass statewide water withdrawal regulations, and require water efficiency measures year-round.
“Parts of our region are still in the grips of an historic drought. Closing our eyes to the problem isn’t a solution. Sucking our rivers dry isn’t a solution. The only real solution is to improve how we manage our water, so that we can protect our economy, environment and quality of life,” said Gerrit Jöbsis, Southeast regional director for American Rivers. “Decision makers in North Carolina and South Carolina should use the coming legislative sessions to implement lasting solutions that embrace sustainable water use and river protection.”
In the upcoming South Carolina legislative session, Sen. Hayes (R York) plans to put surface water withdrawal permitting legislation on the docket. The goal should be to maximize community health and sustainability — not water withdrawals. The North Carolina Legislature needs to be proactive on updating current water regulations during the 2009 legislative session, which begins in January. The UNC and Duke University study team offered a preliminary report in November and that should guide the action of the Legislature this session.
While the entire region suffers from water mismanagement, the outdated policies currently threatening the Catawba-Wateree River are especially egregious. Unless immediate changes are implemented, the river that provides drinking water for millions of people, pumps tens of millions of dollars into local economies, and is directly responsible for thousands of jobs could be irreparably damaged; and the communities that depend on it will suffer.
The population explosion in the Charlotte region has left decision makers in both North and South Carolina flummoxed when it comes to water policy. Conservation measures are only implemented after things get bad, not year round. For example, in January 2007, regulators in North Carolina authorized stealing 10 million gallons a day from the Catawba, instead of curing the disease of wasteful water policy. The South Carolina Attorney General responded by petitioning the US Supreme Court to halt the water transfer and assure equitable allocation of this interstate river.
“With wasteful water practices on full display across the Southeast, people can quite literally watch their future go down the drain,” said Jöbsis . “This isn’t a message of gloom and doom, but rather an opportunity for all of us to look in the mirror, and make a substantive and sustainable change in our lives.”
Each year at least 10 million people flock to the Catawba-Wateree to enjoy a variety of recreationally based industries including boating, camping, hiking and fishing. Those tourists leave almost 100 million dollars behind, helping drive local economies and support jobs throughout the region. Meanwhile, the river helps power both states through hydropower, coal, and nuclear power plants. Lower water flows could force the facilities to be taken off line. Several paper plants, textile factories and chemical facilities also depend on the river to keep their businesses afloat. No water for the river means no water for the businesses, and bad news for local communities.