Just the facts about Lake Norman

Lake Norman: a Look at the Past and its Uncertain Future


The news about the drought in the Southeastern part of our country is getting more and more serious. I’ve been assuming and hoping, like our current real estate market news, that the news writers are choosing a more exaggerated perspective on our drought in order to attract more readers. However, when we got a 911 reverse call from Iredell County asking residents to cut their water usage by 50%, read about the looming Stage 4 water restrictions, heard about farmers having to sell off their livestock for lack of food then it really started to hit home. I had simply never even considered that this wasn’t just a fluke and all would return to normal in a few months. Now, like so many others, I am making short term and long term plans for how to best face the drought and related issues.

To better understand the scope of our water sources in the Lake Norman area, it is necessary to look at the big picture; the past, present and future issues related to the entire Catawba River.

On Sunday, The Charlotte Observer started a fascinating week-long series about the Catawba River “A Cry for the Catawba…Join us for a journey along a river at risk” which I highly recommend you read whether you live in Charlotte and get the newspaper or read it online. Sunday’s kick off included an historic timeline for how Duke Power harnessed the river, a huge map of the entire river from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Lake Watertree in South Carolina, and some charts on water usage and statistics about the river.

Written in the context of our current drought, it is a sobering yet wonderful journey from ancient times to today; following the evolution of one very special river which became “a necklace of 11 lakes connected by a few free-flowing stretches” due to the efforts of James Duke starting at the turn of the century and culminating in the damming of Lake Norman in 1963.

The story starts with one man, Arthur Joe Hemphill and his passion to protect the Catawba River. He and his wife Mary, own 328 acres where one of three springs, considered to be “The Source” and where the river begins. “Joe and Mary believe the land…should not be tampered with.” Instead of selling their acreage to a developer they sold an easement to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The agreement protects the land forever from development…” It then travels through the major lakes along the river’s path and ends at Lake Watertree in SC.

Below is a list of the series of article with links to the two most relevant to Lake Norman. You can access the entire series on the Charlotte Observer’s website as well as they unfold this week. I do have a copy of the Sunday and Tuesday articles including the large map of the entire river with which I would be happy to provide anyone printed copies.


Sunday: The Source of the Catawba River and it’s history

Monday: The Struggle to Save Lake James

Tuesday: A Developer’s view of Lake Norman”

Wednesday: Protecting Mountain Island Lake, Charlotte’s water supply

Thursday: A lakefront landfill at Wylie

Friday: At Landsford Canal, a surprising water garden

Saturday: A revival for Great Falls S.C.

Sunday: At Lake Watertree, how many demands can one river take?


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