Forest Trail Explorer

US Forest Service and Southern Research Station

Water and Air

Air Quality

Clean Air Act of 1970
Air pollution in Western North Carolina, specifically total sulfate and nitrate deposition, has been intensely studied on 44 sites for over a century. Study sites demonstrate a significant increase in total sulfate deposition from 1860–1970 followed by a significant decline after the Clean Air Act of 1970 (CAA). The CAA mandates pollution control devices and other techniques be adopted to meet targeted reduction levels. In 1977, an amendment to the CAA set a national goal... more »
Natural Background (1860)

Airborne Particles

Tiny particles of matter originating from land and sea are continually emitted directly into the atmosphere and suspended in either gas or liquid form. Particulates are also formed in the atmosphere – for example, when sulfur dioxide is converted to ammonium sulfates.
Fine particles are responsible for visibility impairment, but they can also negatively impact people’s health. High concentrations of fine particulates on a daily or annual basis can increase the likelihood of respiratory or... more »
Clear day: little uniform haze, no cloud deposition

Nitrogen Oxides and Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

Nitrogen oxide emissions have been decreasing in states near Western North Carolina, and it is anticipated that they will continue to decrease in the future. This reduction will lower ozone exposures, especially peak concentrations from ground-level sources (primarily vehicles) and elevated sources (primarily coal-fired power plants).
In a recent six-state analysis by the Southern Appalachian Mountains Initiative, nitrogen oxide reductions from ground-level and atmospheric sources were studied... more »
Nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants

River Basins

Ten river basins drain about 11,459 square miles in Western North Carolina. The New River, in the northeast corner of the region, is thought to be one of the oldest in the world.
The region’s river basins have some of the most outstanding and diverse aquatic systems within the state. However, the health of these systems is threatened by human actions such as pollution, impoundments, and poorly mitigated land management activities. Mussels, crayfish, snails, salamanders, and many species of... more »
Western North Carolina River Basins

Water Quality

The dense network of rivers and mountain streams in Western North Carolina supports highly diverse aquatic ecosystems, including many species of fish, mussel, snail, crayfish, amphibian, and reptile. The increasing threat to aquatic communities in the region is primarily due to habitat degradation and destruction, point and nonpoint source pollution, dams and impoundments, and the introduction of non-native species. Fish commonly found in the region include native brook and non-native brown and... more »
Noonday Globe Snail

Water Quantity and Use

Western North Carolina is historically abundant in quantities of rainfall, surface water, and groundwater that contribute to the headwaters of regional river basins, which provide water to both local residents and downstream southeastern cities. This discussion addresses water quantity and use. For information regarding river basins and water quality, please see River Basins and Water Quality. While past water supplies have been more than adequate, recent droughts have raised public concern... more »