Surface Water Quality

​​Watershed Improvement, Planning & Protection

There are many waterbodies throughout Charlotte and Mecklenburg County that are designated as "impaired" by the State of North Carolina because of degraded water quality and/or degraded habitat and aquatic life. This degradation has largely resulted from the impacts of historical stormwater management practices implemented prior to current surface water quality regulations and the impacts of urbanization.

Watersheds require innovative water quality improvement activities 
to overcome many years of degradation and continued sources of pollution.

We aim to protect and improve the water quality of streams and lakes so they are no longer considered "impaired". This will require decades of programs that reduce erosion, restore natural features, and reduce polluted stormwater runoff. The following provides information about our programs that accomplish these goals. Please click on any of the links below for more information.

Watershed Planning

​​Watershed Planning is the development of watershed management plans that identify why a stream or lake may be experiencing impairments and the programs and management strategies needed to improve these conditions. Impairments are areas of streams or lakes where there is degraded water quality, aquatic habitat or aquatic life.​

​A variety of watershed plans have been developed to address impairments throughout the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and its six towns. Comprehensive watershed plans will be developed for all of its watersheds to prioritize and maximize watershed improvement activities for many years to come.

Information about impaired waterbodies in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the watershed plans that have been developed is organized on this page as follows:

  • Impairments
  • Goose Creek Watershed
  • McDowell Creek Watershed
  • Rocky River Watershed
  • Irwin, Little Sugar, McAlpine, Sugar Creeks and Lake Wylie Watersheds
  • Reedy Creek Watershed 


When the State determines a water body is impaired but it has not yet developed a TMDL, a local municipality may be proactive and develop a voluntary watershed plan. If the State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accept this watershed plan, a TMDL will not be developed. These voluntary watershed plans are typically more comprehensive than those required by a TMDL. They usually include local data for pollutants not included on 303(d) lists or in TMDLs, and identify improvement strategies and projects that go beyond minimum requirements.

Goose Creek Watershed

Goose Creek is on the 303(d) list for impairments related to biological integrity and a TMDL has been developed for fecal coliform bacteria. The watershed also contains the federally endangered species of freshwater mussel called the Carolina Heelsplitter.

McDowell Creek Watershed

The McDowell Creek watershed is located in northwest Mecklenburg County and empties into McDowell Creek Cove in Mountain Island Lake where there is a drinking water intake. McDowell Creek is on the 303(d) list for impairments related to biological integrity.

Rocky River Watershed

The Rocky River watershed is located in the northern portion of Mecklenburg County with smaller portions in the Towns of Davidson and Cornelius.  Rocky River is on the 303(d) list for impairments related to biological integrity, turbidity and copper, and a TMDL has been developed for fecal coliform bacteria.

​Irwin, Little Sugar, Long, McAlpine, Steele, ​Sugar Creeks and Lake Wylie Watersheds

Seven TMDLs have also been developed for a variety of streams and Lake Wylie. Please see the following list of impaired waterbodies and the TMDLs that have been developed.

Irwin Creek
dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform
Little Sugar
dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform
McAlpine Creeks​
dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform
McKee Creek​
fecal coliform
Steele Creek
fecal coliform
Sugar Creek​
fecal coliform
Irwin, Little Sugar, Long, McApline and Sugar Creek
Lake Wylie
Waterbody's statewide

Reedy Creek Watershed

The Reedy Creek watershed is a fourteen square mile watershed located in the eastern portion of Charlotte. Reedy Creek is on the 303(d) list for impairments related to biological integrity.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has also collected data that indicates pollutants of concern in this watershed. A Reedy Creek Watershed Management Plan is currently being developed that will outline a strategy and prioritized projects to address pollutants and impairments for the entire watershed.

Watershed Planning Questions?

Jason Hunt

City of Charlotte Watershed Planner

Rusty Rozzelle

Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager

​Water​shed Protection

Protecting watersheds from the stormwater impacts of land development is critical for maintaining the water quality of streams and lakes. Careful planning, design and long term maintenance activities are needed both during and long after construction is complete.

There are many reasons why watersheds need protection when land development occurs:

Soil Erosion Increases

  • When development occurs, soils are exposed to wind and water action that can lead to soil erosion and sedimentation of surface waters like streams, ponds and lakes. 
  • Increased impervious surfaces prevent infiltration of rain water, creating larger volumes and velocities of stormwater runoff. This contributes to stream bank erosion and sedimentation.

Loss of Water Quality Buffers and Floodplains

  • If development removes vegetated buffers and/or impacts floodplains, this can cause erosion of stream banks and loss of open space that is essential for water quality, flood risk reduction and support of wildlife habitat.

Pollution Sources Increase

  • Development and urbanization result in more pollutants such as bacteria, metals, oil, and nutrients on impervious surfaces (i.e., pavement, rooftops) that then flow through stormwater drainage systems into surface waters such as streams and lakes. 

To learn about the programs that protect watersheds, please see the following:​

Report Pollution

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