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Water Troubles & Water Solutions: WNC Water in Context


Glass of WaterWestern North Carolina is one of the world’s richest areas in natural water resources. Ten rivers begin their flow in our mountains – five on the east side of the Eastern Continental Divide, five on the west side. Major headwaters include the westward flowing French Broad and Little Tennessee, and the eastward flowing Yadkin, Catawba, and Broad.

Water is central to our lives. Water accounts for two-thirds of the human body. Except in a few extraordinary cases, humans cannot live longer than one week without water. Water also sustains the life of all plants and animals. We have words for places with little or no water:  badlands, desert, wasteland.

What will happen to our water in Western North Carolina over the next fifty years?

A century ago, Western North Carolina was home to over 10 billion board feet of timber standing as the last best virgin hardwood forest on the planet. But a combination of the chestnut blight and devastating logging practices put an end to this treasure. Will a combination of drought and our own thoughtless behaviors put an end to our water treasure?

According to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, “the 2007-2008 drought in North Carolina was the worst in the 112-year recorded rainfall history… at one point, as many as 30 cities and towns were confronted with running out of water or having to ration it.” In 2008, The Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland assessed the economic impacts of climate change on North Carolina and concluded that “Increased severity of droughts in the future from unmitigated climate change could put an even greater strain on the already stressed water supply systems of North Carolina.”

How can western North Carolina assure an abundant and affordable supply of usable water FOREVER? 

It is a complicated challenge. To help us think about these questions, we have invited experts from other areas in North Carolina, the South, and North America to share with us their water issues. Perhaps we can learn some do's and don'ts as we hear about water management in North America, Atlanta, Colorado, the Tennessee River Valley, and the Catawba River watershed.

Please join us on five Saturday afternoons from late March to early May. All presentations are free of charge and will take place from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in Pack Memorial Library at 67 Haywood Street, Asheville – next to the U.S. Cellular Center. Following each presentation, a responder from the Asheville area will take the podium and share his or her thoughts about the presentation and how it relates to Western North Carolina.

For more information, contact the Wilma Dykeman Legacy at 458-5813 or Pack Library at 250-4700.                          

Presentation details are as follows:

  • MARCH 22 at 3pm:  North America
    Presenter:  Carla Friedrich
    Programme Officer for Ecosystems Management
    Regional Office for North America
    United Nations Environment Programme
    Responder:  Alan Basist
    President, Eyes on Earth, Inc.
    (provides satellite-derived temperature and soil wetness products to worldwide clients)
  • APRIL 5 at 3pm:  Atlanta
    Presenter:  Gil Rogers
    Senior Attorney
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Responder:  Kathy Newfont
    Associate Professor of History
    Mars Hill University
  • APRIL 26 at 3pm:  Colorado’s Western Slope
    Presenter:  Hannah Holm
    Coordinator, Water Center
    Colorado Mesa University
    Responder:  Leah Mathews
    Professor of Economics
    University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • MAY 3 at 3pm:  Catawba River
    Presenters:  Regina Guyer, Energy & Environmental Assistance Office, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Barry Gullet, Director, Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities; Rusty Rozzelle, Program Manager, Mecklenburg County Water Quality
    Responder:  Amy Knisley
    Environmental Studies Faculty
    Warren Wilson College
  • MAY 10 at 3pm:  Tennessee River Valley
    Presenter: Gary Springston
    Water Supply Program Manager
    Tennessee Valley Authority
    Responder:  Doug Miller
    Department Chair, Atmospheric Sciences
    University of North Carolina at Asheville

Sponsored by:

The Wilma Dykeman Legacy and Buncombe County Public Libraries.