Surface Water Quality

Surface Water Improvement & Management Program

Background

There are more than 3000 miles of creeks and streams in Mecklenburg County. Those waters have long been a vital part of the fabric of the County throughout history. History hasn't always been kind to our surface waters. Known to early settlers as an abundant source of water and for fishing, from the Industrial Age of the 18th Century until the rapid residential and commercial development of the 20th Century, pollution imperiled our waters. By the mid 1990s, only 15% of the creeks were safe for human contact. In 1996, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners adopted the community's first "Creek Use Policy" calling for all surface waters to be suitable for prolonged human contact.

The policy established a Surface Water Improvement and Management program. This program sought to

  • Prevent further degradation.
  • Preserve the best waters.
  • Improve the good.
  • Remediate the worst waters.

The following principles are used to guide SWIM efforts:

  • Holistic approach to address water quality, quantity and greenspace issues;
  • Basin level community involvement and support;
  • Basin specific analysis using modeling and stream assessment; and
  • Use of proven, scientifically sound watershed management techniques.

Results

Following the implementation of the SWIM program, efforts have begun to pay off. From 15% suitable for human contact in the mid-1990s, we are well on the target of 100% suitable by the year 2020, as shown in this graph.

Graph showing the percent  of stream miles suitable for human contact.
Picutre of a person walking in a stream.