401 & Buffer Permitting Unit
Water Resources - Frequently Asked Questions
What are waters of the State?
Waters of the State include any stream, river, brook, swamp, lake, sound, tidal estuary, bay, creek, reservoir, waterway, or other body or accumulation of water. They can be surface or underground, public or private, natural or artificial. Finally, they must be contained in, flow through, or border upon any portion of this State (including any portion of the Atlantic Ocean over which the State has jurisdiction). G.S. 143-212(6)
A stream is a body of concentrated flowing water in a natural low area or natural channel on the land surface (15A NCAC 02B .0233(2)). There are three stream types: ephemeral, intermittent, and perennial.
A modified natural stream means the channelization or relocation of a stream. Consequently, the flow is relocated. They exhibit the typical biological, hydrological, and physical characteristics commonly associated with the continuous conveyance of water. These features are regulated by NC DWR and typically regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Division of Water Resources (DWR) determines the presence and location of waters of the State, including streams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines waters of the U.S. In areas where there are riparian buffer protection programs, other entities may make stream determinations for the buffer rules only (see buffer FAQs). To schedule a stream determination, please contact our Regional Offices.
“Blue-line stream” means that a stream appears as a broken or solid blue line (or a purple line) on a USGS topographic map. Streams do not have to be “blue-line” to be considered waters of the State.
NO!!! While topographic maps and soil surveys may be helpful for some streams, a stream does not have to appear on a map to be regulated (see buffer FAQs for map requirements).
Wetlands are the interfaces between land and water. They are characterized by having hydric soils, hydrophytic plants and wetland hydrology (for more information about wetlands, please click here). Wetlands are regulated by NC DWR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determine the presence and location of wetlands that are jurisdictional under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.