Muddy Water Watch is a project designed to monitor and reduce sediment pollution in North Carolina water ways.

Primarily from construction sites, poorly maintained and illegal roads, sediment pollution is the number one reason for poor water quality in North Carolina. MWW is sponsored by the N.C. Riverkeepers to reduce this pollution and increase erosion control measures throughout the state. The French Broad Riverkeeper is currently focusing on closing illegal roads in the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests.

Sediment pollution is a grave water quality concern because it smothers aquatic life, warms the water, reduces oxygen levels, destroys habitats, and clogs fish gills.Because of the impacts of sediment pollution, for the first time since the Clean Water Act in 1972 the French Broad Watershed water quality is declining dramatically. This pollution is contributing to a massive decline in fish populations and increasing susceptibility to blue-green algal blooms that release toxins and impair streams from swimming, fishing, and drinking.

The greatest potential for sediment pollution in the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests comes from roads on steep slopes and erodible soils with multiple stream crossings.These qualities can be found in many illegal roads that are created from all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Illegal roads lack proper erosion-control construction and encourage ATV activity in riparian areas, the sensitive land buffers along rivers and streams. Through continuous use and expansion these roads are unable to withstand erosion and prevent run-off from ending up in headwater streams—and eventually into the French Broad River.

The French Broad Riverkeeper is working to close illegal roads in the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests that contribute to sediment pollution in headwater streams and the French Broad River. WNCA has received a conservation award from the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to assist the Riverkeeper’s efforts.

Founded by Congress in 1991, the National Forest Foundation works to conserve, restore and enhance America’s 193-million-acre National Forest System. Through community-based strategies and public-private partnerships, the NFF helps enhance wildlife habitat, revitalizes wildfire-damaged landscapes, restores watersheds, and improves recreational resources for the benefit of all Americans.

Last year the Riverkeeper worked with the U.S. Forest Service and the NFF to close 24 illegal roads in Hurricane Creek, a sub-watershed and trout stream in the Pisgah National Forest. The Riverkeeper is now looking into four additional sub-watersheds to identify potential roads to be closed in the future.

The French Broad Riverkeeper is responsible for identifying issues that threaten water quality throughout the entire French Broad Watershed, however the Riverkeeper cannot monitor the entire watershed at all times. If you see construction sites or illegal roads that are causing sediment pollution directly into a river or stream, you can:

  • record the exact location, either by using the address or GPS coordinate;
  • take photos of the site, making sure to capture the type of erosion that is occurring, the scale of the site, and the type of water source that is being polluted;
  • note additional observations that may be important (e.g. signs identifying construction site or property boundaries, rainfall, tips for access, etc.).

Send the compiled information to or to the appropriate representative found below. (Click images to enlarge view.)