Who owns the creeks? Surprising facts about Mecklenburg's creeks

Sugar Creek. Photo: Nancy Pierce

Who owns the water in the county’s creeks? We all do. They are waters of the State. Chapter 143 of the General Statues, Article 21, says: “ … the water and air resources of the State belong to the people.” Read on for more tidbits about our creeks.

By Mary Newsom

  • Mecklenburg County has 126 named creeks. This includes creeks whose name is “tributary of.”
  • Every Mecklenburg creek except two starts in Mecklenburg.
  • Every creekshed in Mecklenburg County has impaired surface waters.
  • Little Sugar Creek and Sugar Creek are different creeks.
  • Little Sugar Creek and Sugar Creek were named for the Sugaree Indians, whose name means “people of the river of water which is unfit to drink.”
  • Little Sugar Creek used to be called Sugar Creek, or Sugaw Creek.
  • Irwin Creek used to be called Sugar Creek.
  • Irwin Creek was used as a city water supply from 1905 until a 1911 drought.
  • Little Sugar Creek was so polluted during the middle of the 20th century that the city dripped orange-blossom scented perfume into the water to try to mask the odor.
  • Little Sugar Creek through Midtown was covered by a huge concrete parking lot built in 1959 for Charlottetown Mall.
  • The Charlottetown Mall parking lot and other nearby lots built over Little Sugar Creek were torn down in 2007 to create the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. In all, 1,300 linear feet of concrete cap was removed for the greenway.
  • The two most prevalent pollutants in Mecklenburg’s creeks are bacteria from feces and sediment from storm-water runoff.
  • Sewer overflows are a big cause of bacterial pollution. Most Charlotte-Mecklenburg sewer system overflows are caused by grease clogs in the pipes.
  • One inch of rain onto one acre of pavement will produce an estimated 27,000 gallons of storm-water runoff.
  • An estimated 25 percent of all the land area in Mecklenburg County is impervious surface. This includes streets, roads and highways. So one inch of rain onto all of Mecklenburg produces some 2.4 billion gallons of storm-water runoff.
  • If you put 2.4 billion gallons of water into gallon milk jugs and stacked them up, they would reach to the moon and halfway back.
  • Six creeks in Mecklenburg have a name that starts “Mc…” They are McAlpine, McCullough, McDowell, McIntyre, McKee and McMullen creeks.
  • Six creeks have names related to animals: Swan Run, plus Beaverdam, Duck, Gar, Goose, Mallard creeks.

1 Comment

  1. This website is a treasure! It would be so cool to teach this to students – this is geography, science and history all in one. You could develop packages for school presentations. I know science teachers are always looking for speakers…

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