Public invited to participate in assessment of S.C. river basins
GREENVILLE — Even though South Carolina is blessed with an abundance of rivers and lakes, growth has leaders wondering whether there’s enough water to go around.
Complicating matters, decision-makers currently have limited scientific information about existing and future water supply, availability and demands on the resources.
“We need this information to develop its water plan down the road,” said Jeffery Allen, director of the S.C. Water Resources Center at Clemson University. “You have to know how much is there before you can plan for anything else. It’s the foundation.”
Charged by the Water Resources Planning and Coordination Act, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is spearheading a surface water availability assessment in partnership with S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. This assessment is the first phase in answering how much surface water South Carolina currently has in its eight major river basins.
The two agencies have hired CDM Smith, a private consulting and engineering firm, to conduct the hydrologic modeling of the state’s rivers. Clemson has been hired to facilitate a statewide stakeholder engagement process to involve the public in the development of this model and build awareness about the effort.
The Saluda River Basin is the first of the state’s major basins to be evaluated. The Edisto, Broad, Pee Dee, Catawba, Santee, Savannah and Salkehatchie will follow in that order, with a projected finishing date of August 2016.
A gathering of about 100 stakeholders attended the first meeting of the Saluda River Basin Water Availability Assessment Invitation on April 21 at CU-ICAR in Greenville. Representatives of Clemson, DHEC, DNR and CDM Smith laid out the details of a surface water availability assessment tool and answered questions.
“This is something that is long overdue for South Carolina,” Allen said. “It will put us in a better situation to know exactly how much water we have in each river basin when a neighboring state decides to do anything with that particular river system. Therefore, we will be better able to come to a cooperative agreement.”
Clemson University has been brought on board to take charge of stakeholder engagement. Stakeholders are defined as anyone who lives in or near the basins and uses water, including individuals, businesses, institutions and government entities.
“DHEC and DNR wanted to partner with Clemson to bring the stakeholders to the table,” Allen said. “Clemson will be managing the process of getting information from the stakeholders and then feeding that information to the modeling team from CDM-Smith, which will then inform DHEC and DNR. Clemson will also be in charge of keeping stakeholders informed of ongoing results.”