What Are Floodplains?
Floodplains are the areas along streams or rivers that are likely to experience repeated flooding. Over thousands of years, nature shaped the floodplain to hold excess water that spills over the banks. Simply put, floodplains are meant to flood. Because nature designed floodplains to flood, the floodplain is considered to be part of a healthy creek
Decades ago, homes and buildings were often built in floodplains in Charlotte and across the nation. That's because water was easily available for drinking or commercial uses and the floodplain land was often flat and easier to develop than hilly land. Since the late 1970s, building in local floodplains has been restricted. Protecting floodplains from additional development can reduce flood losses and improve the environment.
It should be noted that nature formed floodplains to flood and to carry a large volume of stormwater. Therefore, floodplains can be dangerous during heavy storms and should be avoided when water is present.
Facts and Stats
- There are 19,841 acres of land designated as in the floodplain across Mecklenburg County.
- More than 20,000 parcels of land touch or come in contact with the floodplain, representing 5% of the land in the county
- Approximately 2,900 habitable and accessory structures are located in the floodplain. Although many of these homes and businesses are built above the 100-year flood level, many are impacted during large rain events.
Am I in a Floodzone?
Find out by typing your address into the
3D Interactive Floodzone Mapor call 704-432-RAIN.
Floodplains and Maps
Public safety is our top priority at Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. To prevent tragedies caused by flooding, we partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess and map flood risks in response to any changes in land development, changes in rainfall statistics and improvements in topographic data.
Floodplain Maps also referred to as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), display areas near major streams that have a specific risk of flooding determined through the analysis of many factors. The maps show how likely a building or a section of land could be affected by rising water from a stream during a storm event. Flood risks vary. Flooding can occur both inside and outside of the designated floodplains. Floodplain maps are used for flood insurance purposes and managing land development activities through permitting guided by floodplain regulations.
Floodplain Mapping Program and Revisions
Flood risks change over time. Floodplain maps must be updated regularly to accurately show flooding risk. Our Floodplain Mapping Program updates local floodplain maps. Risk mapping technology has improved, allowing our staff to more accurately predict where floodwater is likely to flow. The new maps also calculate how deep floodwater is likely to get and show how frequently a section of land is expected to flood.
Remapping regulated floodplains follows the standards, methods, and sequence of steps required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The steps are: 1) Planning, 2) Development, 3) Draft, 4) Preliminary, and 5) Effective. This is relayed as the status for each phase of mapping.
The remapping process includes a series of public meetings to inform the public about the pending changes, gather feedback and allow the public to provide input and comments throughout the process.
Current Mapping Updates Schedule
To schedule updates, Mecklenburg County has been divided into four geographical areas called “phases.” New floodplain maps have been developed and adopted starting with Phase 1 and ending with Phase 4. Phases 1, 2 and 3 are now Effective; Phase 1 maps took effect in 2014, Phase 2 maps in 2015 and Phase 3 maps in 2018. Flood maps for Phase 4 are in development and Preliminary maps could be available in 2020, but no date has been announced as of yet. See below for more details.
Enter an address or use the zoom controls to view the floodplain remapping phase for a property. Click on a map phase for more information.
Phase 1: South-Central and Southeast
Status: Effective on February 19, 2014
This phase covers the south-central and southeastern watersheds, shown on the map above in orange. These floodplains are now official and are being used for both flood insurance and land development floodplain regulation purposes. Floodplain maps for Little Hope Creek went through an additional revision with those corrected maps taking effect on February 15, 2015.
Floodplain regulations for Charlotte, Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville, and unincorporated Mecklenburg County have been updated to reflect both the new flood hazard data and the date that the new floodplain maps took effect.
Phase 2: West
Status: Effective on September 2, 2015
This phase covers the western watersheds, shown on the map above in green. Please note that this includes parts of the Catawba River but does not include most lakefront property along Lake Norman or Lake Wylie. These floodplains are now official and are being used for both flood insurance and land development floodplain regulation purposes.
Floodplain regulations for Charlotte, Cornelius, Huntersville, Pineville, and unincorporated Mecklenburg County have been updated to reflect both the new flood hazard data and the date that the new floodplain maps took effect.
Phase 3: Northeast
Status: Effective November 16, 2018
This phase covers the northeastern watersheds, shown on the map above in yellow. These floodplains are now official and are being used for both flood insurance and land development floodplain regulation purposes.
Floodplain regulations for Charlotte, Cornelius, Huntersville, and Davidson have been updated to reflect both the new flood hazard data and the date that the new floodplain maps took effect.
Phase 4: Catawba River, Including Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake
Status: In Development
The final remapping phase of local floodplains covers the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County, including Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake. The State of North Carolina is conducting the study with engineering work already underway. Preliminary phase 4 maps are not expected to be available until late 2020.
Floodplain Maps FAQ
What are floodplain maps used to do?
Floodplain maps are used to:
What’s the difference between the FEMA Floodplain and Community Floodplain?
- guide new construction and remodeling
- determine when flood insurance is required
- set the cost of flood insurance premiums.
The FEMA Floodplain shows where flooding is likely to occur now. Community Floodplain shows where flooding is likely to occur in the future, based on expected development upstream. In 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became the first community in the nation to show both current and future floodplains on its official maps.Can I build or renovate in the floodplain?
Whether you can build or renovate in the floodplain depends on:
1) Where the property is in the floodplain
2) If the building's floor is above the required elevation
3) The cost of renovation compared to the value of the existing structure.
Keep in mind: Building codes are different in the floodplain than outside of the floodplain. A special permit is required before any floodplain construction takes place to make sure it complies with the additional regulations. Floodplain development restrictions apply to grading, new construction and some renovations on floodplain property.
To get approval to renovate or repair a structure in the floodplain, you need to know:
1) What is the required elevation for a building in that part of the flood zone?
2) Is the floor of my building below this required elevation?
Buildings below the required elevation are at a higher risk of flood damage. For that reason, there are restrictions on renovations. Who should buy flood insurance?
Anyone at even low to moderate risk of flooding. Everyone lives in a floodzone. Some places have higher flood risks than others. If you live on a hill, your risk may be reduced. But it is not eliminated. Flooding can happen anywhere. Each year 25% of flood insurance claims are from outside high-risk areas (regulated, mapped floodplains). Standard homeowners insurance or business insurance does not cover flood damage.
For Floodplain Mapping Program questions:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services
For general floodplain questions:
Storm Water Services
Call 704-432-7246 or email