Surface Water Quality

​​Surface ​Water Quality Program Overview

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSWS) protects and improves the surface water quality of more than 3,000 miles of streams and numerous acres of lakes, ponds and wetlands. Unfortunately, many of these surface waters have degraded water quality, habitat and aquatic life largely due to the impacts of historical stormwater management practices and urbanization. The majority of streams in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are designated by the state as “impaired”, meaning that they are not clean enough to support swimming, fishing, or diverse and abundant aquatic life.

CMSWS implements some of the most innovative surface water quality management programs in North Carolina, some of which have been awarded national recognition. All of them are focused on the goal of improving the quality and usability of our surface waters such as streams and lakes. Information about these programs is organized on this surface water quality tab as follows:

  • Monitoring​:  Monitoring techniques, the quality of local stream and lakes, and swimming and fish advisories 

  • Watershed Improvement:  Watershed planning, stream and wetland restoration, mitigation banking, and pollution control programs

  • Watershed Protection:  Soil erosion and sediment control, the Post Construction Stormwater Control Ordinance, Best Management Practices, protection of buffers and floodplains

  • Illegal Discharges:​ ​ Programs that find, respond to, reduce and correct pollution sources for surface waters

  • Pollution Prevention:  Pollution prevention information for residents, businesses, employees, and multi-family housing complexes

  • Education and Outreach:   Resources and outreach programs that educate the community about stormwater and surface water quality

  • Volunteer:​  Programs for residents to get involved in preventing stormwater pollution and improving streams and lakes. 

​Surface water quality is a core concern of all communities within our jurisdiction. In 1998, Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners issued a “Creek Use Policy” requiring drastic improvements to surface water quality throughout the County. This multi-phased program governs our approach to improving water quality and sets the standard for future land-use and development.   Watch our video describing Mecklenburg County's Journey to Clean Water.

Nat​i​onal​ Pollutant Discharge​ ​Elimination System (NPDES) Permits​ 

Many of these surface water quality programs are driven by NPDES Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) regulations. The Federal NPDES regulations are part of the 1972 Clean Water Act and are administered by the​​ State of North Carolina.

NPDES MS4 regulations require the following public entities to obtain permits to discharge stormwater: City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College. These entities are subject to these regulations because of population numbers and densities. The City of Charlotte is considered a Phase I permittee because it has over 100,000 residents within its jurisdiction. The rest of the above jurisdictions are Phase II permittees because they are within an urbanized area as defined by the U.S. Census. 

Requirements for Phase I and Phase II permittees are slightly different, but each applies for a permit that is issued by the state for a five year term. This permit requires the permittees to develop a Storm Water Management Plan (SWMP) that outlines how the permittee(s) will implement the following six minimum measures to reduce stormwater pollution:  

  1. Public Education and Outreach
  2. Public Participation and Involvement
  3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination 
  4. Construction Site Runoff Control
  5. Post-Construction Runoff Control
  6. Municipal Pollution Prevention and Good Housekeeping

​All of the permittees also have permit requirements related to meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). See more information about TMDLs at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality TMDL program.  

The City also has the following additional permit requirements:  

For more information about minimum measures and NPDES stormwater regulations visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s webpage Stormwater Discharges from Municipal Sources

Phase I Permit – City of Charlotte 

Questions or comments about the Phase I Permit? 

Craig Miller

City of Charlotte NPDES Program Supervisor

Phase II Permit – 

Mecklenburg County holds a joint permit with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Central Piedmont Community College and the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. They work together on permit requirements so compliance activities are cost-effective and consistent across the region. All of these public entities are subject to NPDES MS4 Phase II regulations.  ​

Questions or comments about the Phase II Permit? 

Rusty Rozzelle​

Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager