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Water Supply Watershed Regulations

Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg creeks flow directly into lakes that supply drinking water.  By state law, those watersheds are under additional zoning and development regulations.    

Where are the Water Supply Watersheds?
The additional regulations apply to Water Supply Watersheds, which are also called Watershed Protection Overlay Districts. In Mecklenburg County, the watershed regulations apply to sections of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville and Charlotte that are closest to Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and upper Lake Wylie. "Critical Areas" within Water Supply Watersheds have additional restrictions because of their proximity to a protected water source.

Can property in a Water Supply Watershed be developed?
The additional regulations are a zoning overlay. The property can still be developed according to underlying zoning. However, certain land uses are not allowed in Water Supply Watersheds. Also, the property must meet additional buffer and built upon area requirements as described in the watershed protection ordinances.

What are the buffer requirements in a Water Supply Watershed?
The minimum size of the buffer around a stream or lake depends on where the Property is in the Water Supply Watershed and also depends on the zoning ordinance for that Town or City. Minimum buffer widths range from 30 to 100 feet.

Mountain Island Lake provides 80 million gallons of water each day for Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents
Mountain Island Lake provides 80 million gallons
of water each day for Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents

What is Built Upon Area?
Built Upon Area is the percentage of a development project covered by impervious or partially impervious material. That includes rooftops, pavement, and gravel. 

Read the Ordinances that regulate development in Water Supply Watersheds. 

See a map of Water Supply Watersheds

See a chart of Buffer requirements and Built Upon Area restrictions.

Gravel walkways are not allowed in buffer areas within Water Supply Watersheds.
    Gravel walkways are not allowed in buffer
      areas within Water Supply Watersheds

See buffer requirements for individual properties on POLARIS.

    1. In upper left corner, enter address into the Search Box. 
    2. On upper right, select "Overlays."
    3. On left side, select "Regulated Watersheds" and "Water Quality Buffers (SWIM)"
    4. On upper right, select "Legend" to identify the type(s) of buffer(s) on the property. Water Supply Watershed buffers are shown in peach, orange and tan.​

Look up buffer requirements on the Interactive SWIM Buffer Map

  1. Type address or Parcel ID.
  2. Required buffer zones are shown in various colors.  Click "Legend" for more information.

Water Quality Buffer Implementation Guidelines

Application for Water Quality Buffer Disturbances
Click on the link, save the form to your computer and fill it out. Submit completed form to:
     Rusty Rozzelle
     Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services
     Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program
     700 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC  28202
     704-336-5449

Additional erosion control measures are required in portions of Water Supply Watersheds and in the Goose Creek Watershed. These
Critical Areas are to further protect the quality of drinking water or protect an endangered species.  

There are restrictions on tree removal, grading, clearing, and placement of permanent structures of any type including septic tanks in buffer zones within Water Supply Watersheds. For specific information, contact Water Quality Supervisor David Caldwell at 704-336-5452 or Mike MacIntyre at 704-432-5570.