Letters to the Editor

Letters: SC mega-farms violating public’s water rights

A large irrigation intake pump sits on the bank of the Edisto River. Nearby residents are concerned that a mega potato farm and other farms are allowed to take too much water from the Edisto and lower the river to dangerous levels.
A large irrigation intake pump sits on the bank of the Edisto River. Nearby residents are concerned that a mega potato farm and other farms are allowed to take too much water from the Edisto and lower the river to dangerous levels. tdominick@thestate.com

Associate Editor Cindi Ross Scoppe followed Sammy Fretwell’s articles on water use by large farms with a May 25 column that asked a very important question: “Why would we let anyone use up all our water?”

To this I would like to add: I believe the state law governing water use for agriculture is both unfair and unconstitutional.

Since 1788, people who own land abutting streams have had a common-law right to withdraw some water from the streams they abut. This “riparian right” is an important property right.

But the S.C. Surface Water Withdrawal Act of 2010 allows some water users to “register” and then pump a certain amount of water from a stream.

This may under extreme conditions take the whole flow of the stream, essentially pumping the stream dry.

Thus my riparian right to use some of the water in an adjoining stream can be taken away and transferred to someone else — without my consent or compensation or due process, as required by the state constitution. The public’s historic right to use free-flowing waters can also be taken away and given to users who qualify to “register” withdrawal of water from streams.

This is why I and several other citizens potentially deprived of our riparian rights have appealed, with the help of the S.C. Environmental Law Project, to the state Supreme Court to rule this Surface Water Withdrawal Act of 2010 unconstitutional.

Ben Williamson

Darlington

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