UNC Charlotte Receives Water Resources Grant to Establish Watershed Observatory

UNC Charlotte has received a $76,521 grant to establish a watershed observatory that will document the impact of land use and invasive plant species on Catawba Watershed water quality and quantity, to guide the development of best conservation practices for uplands here and elsewhere.

UNC Charlotte is one of 14 organizations across North and South Carolina to collectively receive more than $1 million in the fifth grant announcement of the Water Resources Fund, a $10 million multi-year commitment from Duke Energy. The Water Resources Fund will leave a legacy of improved water quality, quantity and conservation in the Carolinas and neighboring regions.

“Duke Energy is committed to protecting and restoring the rivers and waterways that are valuable resources for our communities and the regional economy,” said Cari Boyce, president of the Duke Energy Foundation. “We look forward to our partnership with UNC Charlotte and the impact this grant will have in North Carolina.”

Dr. Martha Cary Eppes and Dr. David Vinson of the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences in UNC Charlotte’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences will oversee the watershed work, in partnership with North Carolina Plant Conservation Program and the Catawba Lands Conservancy.

The initiative will establish the Catawba Basin Watershed Observatory, a long-term outdoor laboratory that will monitor water resources, and document the environmental history and any changes that occur in the areas under study. The observatory will be located at Redlair, an approximately 1,200-acre property preserved in Gaston County along the South Fork of the Catawba River.

“We need more comprehensive monitoring to fully understand how watersheds with different land use histories respond to different environmental conditions,” said Vinson, a hydrologist specializing in water quality and groundwater-stream interactions. “This project will establish monitoring stations in six representative watersheds with different land use histories and invasive plant species coverage.”

While significant research exists about water quality and quantity in the larger rivers and bottomland, this study will address an important gap in data related to small rivers and upland areas, the researchers said.

“Most of the miles in a river system occur in the small headwater streams, which means that upland watersheds are where most chemicals and sediment enter river systems,” said Eppes, a soil scientist with expertise in soil formation, hillslopes, and soil-rock-water interactions that can affect stream water quality. “These pollutants have a significant impact throughout the river systems.”

The monitoring stations will collect groundwater data, stream information, and meteorological data. Future work will include documentation of the impact on watersheds of removal of invasive plant species in the areas under study.

The project also will include development of a website, workshops, and other steps to inform and educate the public. The observatory monitoring sensors and baseline data will follow common standards that should allow the data to be usable and comparable with data collected by other water researchers in the region and elsewhere.

Investment decisions by the Water Resources Fund are carefully reviewed by the Water Resources Fund committee, an independent body that includes five environmental experts and two Duke Energy employees. Selected projects are chosen on several criteria, including whether the project is science-based and research-supported.

Duke Energy anticipates two grant announcements per year over the course of the Water Resources Fund. Visit nccommunityfoundation.org for more information on how to apply and register for the session.

About Duke Energy Foundation

The Duke Energy Foundation provides philanthropic support to address the needs of the communities where its customers live and work. The foundation provides more than $30 million annually in charitable gifts. The foundation’s education focus spans kindergarten to career, particularly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), early childhood literacy and workforce development. It also supports the environment and community impact initiatives, including arts and culture.

Duke Energy employees and retirees actively contribute to their communities as volunteers and leaders at a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. Duke Energy is committed to building on its legacy of community service. For more information, visit http://www.duke-energy.com/foundation. Duke Energy is a Fortune 125 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.

The Duke Energy News Center serves as a multimedia resource for journalists and features news releases, helpful links, photos and videos. Hosted by Duke Energy, illumination is an online destination for stories about people, innovations, and community and environmental topics. It also offers glimpses into the past and insights into the future of energy.

Image: Martha Cary Eppes (l) and Mike Hughes, Duke Energy’s vice president of community relations, at a community reception to announce funding recipients




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