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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Watershed Management Plans

McDowell Creek

The McDowell Creek Watershed is located in northwest Mecklenburg County and drains portions of the Towns of Huntersville and Cornelius. McDowell Creek empties into Mountain Island Lake at McDowell Creek Cove, which is just upstream of a drinking water intake owned and operated by Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities. An average of 80 million gallons of raw drinking water a day is pumped from this intake for the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Most of the watershed has been designated as a Water Supply, which requires new development to observe certain impervious, buffer and storm water quality and detention requirements. 


Muddy water in McDowell Creek Cove
Muddy creek water enters the source
of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's drinking water supply

McDowell Creek Cove has some of the worst water quality conditions of any reservoirs along Mecklenburg County's western border.

McDowell Creek has been listed by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources as being biologically impaired. The populations of aquatic insects in the creek are not diverse or plentiful.

Because of degraded conditions in McDowell Creek and McDowell Creek Cove, a proactive Water Quality Ordinance was adopted by the Town of Huntersville. It places strict storm water runoff treatment requirements on all new development. That is in addition to what is required by the water supply watershed requirements. The Low Impact Development Ordinance was designed to prevent future degradation of the creek and cove. However, the Low Impact Development Ordinance does not address pre-existing sources of pollution.

Storm Water Services has begun a number of initiatives to address pre-existing sources of pollution, including creation of the McDowell Watershed Master Plan. This plan will continue to guide efforts to restore streams and buffers, and to retrofit Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce sources of pollution.

To identify the cause of impairment of McDowell Creek and McDowell Creek Cove and to guide effective implementation of watershed improvements, the watershed was segmented into approximately one square mile catchments.

Each of the catchments was evaluated for pollutant loading, extent of stream buffer impact and overall catchment imperviousness. 
Map showing five areas targeted for pollution reduction

The catchments were then ranked to identify those areas with the most potential for negative water quality impacts. The most impacted areas are clustered in five "Focus Areas," situated around Sam Furr Road, Downtown Cornelius, Old Statesville Road, Gilead Road, and Central Piedmont Community College – North Campus. 

McDowell Creek 

Storm Water Services has undertaken a number of stream restoration and BMP projects in the McDowell Watershed to improve water quality. Staff will continue to look for opportunities to improve water quality throughout the watershed.