Amount of water flowing in SC river basins to be studied

sfretwell@thestate.comJanuary 17, 2014 

— South Carolina plans to study how much water is flowing through the state’s eight major river basins as part of an extensive water quantity assessment.

The state’s two environmental agencies announced plans Friday to hire environmental contractors for the study. The Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Natural Resources say the state needs a better grip on how much water it has.

Among other things, the results of the study could help DHEC make decisions on whether to allow large withdrawals from rivers.

“This cooperative effort will result in a better understanding of this vital resource and will provide a very useful tool for effective water resource management,” DNR director Alvin Taylor said in a news release. “We believe that with a foundation of sound science, decision makers will be equipped with the means to make long-term decisions on the use of this precious natural resource.”

DHEC director Catherine Templeton said South Carolina has never had a “true and complete assessment” of its water resources, but that needs to change. Certain stretches of rivers have been assessed but not complete basins, said Rebecca Haynes, who is with the Conservation Voters of South Carolna.

“We want to acquire complete information because we want to be correct and scientific in our decisions,’’ Templeton said.

Unlike South Carolina, both Georgia and North Carolina have completed water assessments, according to DHEC.

A recent DHEC decision to allow a potato farm to withdraw billions of gallons of water from the Edisto River basin has drawn criticism from some folks, who say the data used to make the decision was flawed.

Friday’s joint news release from DHEC and DNR did not say how much a water assessment would cost, but the Legislature approved more than $1 million for the work during the last session. State agencies have pushed for the study for at least two years.

South Carolina has eight major river basins: Edisto, Savannah, Saluda, Broad, Catawba, Pee Dee, Salkehatchie and Santee. The Broad, Saluda and Catawba basins flow through the Columbia area in central South Carolina. The Savannah runs from the mountains to the coast on the state’s western border with Georgia, while the Edisto, Salkehatchie, Santee and Pee Dee are coastal plain basins.

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