Lake Norman Magazine

Lakefront: Catawba Riverkeeper

David Merryman has a big job. As the Catawba Riverkeeper, he is the voice of the river, all 300 miles of it, which flows through 24 counties in both North and South Carolina. The river is sectioned into 11 lakes – including Lake Norman and its 42 islands. Merryman hails from Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from Gardner-Webb University. He’s still working on his master's degree in environmental science. He'd probably have finished it by now, but he's too busy working to keep up with state and federal water regulations, as well as those of the various municipalities through which the river runs. And there’s also all of the Covewatcher and Muddy Water Watcher volunteers who meet regularly with Merryman to share information and watchdog reports about what’s happening on the lake. This year, though, Merryman says he plans to spend more time on Lake Norman. One reason for that is that he and his volunteers have their eye on Mooresville's Langtree at the Lake development, the billion-dollar mixed-use project that will have a footprint on all four corners at I-77 and Exit 31.With that in mind, Merryman hopes to raise enough money to train more volunteers in the area. Through programs like Muddy Water Watchers and Covewatcher classes, volunteers can learn about water quality issues, the inner workings of local, state and federal regulations and how to report and follow up on violations. "What we really want are people who are committed, people who are interested in monitoring the lake after their training," he says.The monitoring can be fun, he says, citing the Secchi Dip-ins which volunteers aid with annually. That's a funny term for what amounts to checking the river for clarity, and, says Merryman, a good excuse to spend a sunny day on the lake with the kids. It's important to do such check-ins, he says, because "water clarity is indicative of water health and water cleanliness."Merryman says that so far this year Lake Norman is looking good, but he’s still advocating for additional protection efforts to ensure Catawba's "youngest and largest" lake stays clean.