South Carolina is not one of the water-parched parts of the country.
It faces the ocean, after all, and several large rivers (Cooper, Santee, Savannah, among others) run through (or in the Savannah’s case, next to) it to the sea. The area gets plenty of rain.
South Carolina, like most eastern state, operates under the riparian water supply system: In a practical matter, if you need it, you can use it. There’s an underlying presumption that there will be enough.
And yet … there’s plenty of water concern here.
Since 2007, Clemson University has held biennial water resource conferences “to prepare for and meet the growing challenge of providing water resources to sustain South Carolina’s economy, while preserving our natural resources.” It has drawn hundreds of people each time. (The next is in 2018.)
This is not simply forward thinking, however. Just ask the people of Aiken, located a few minutes east of Augusta, Georgia.
A group of Aiken County residents in South Carolina, concerned about high water use by a couple of local corporate farms, have asked the state’s legislature to tighten water use regulation.
Aiken activists pointed to two large farms in the area, Walther Farms and BC Farms, as high water users on a par with, or higher than, local cities. Some of the draws come from an aquifer but much of the water is being pulled from the Edisto River.
And those residents say their own use of water is beginning to be impacted. One resident said in testimony, “This will ultimately be a statewide problem, but because we have 60 percent of the state’s total agricultural withdrawals on the Edisto; we have felt the effects of this law and its dangerous regulations first.”
The debate (which surely won’t be settled this session) has already made its way into the South Carolina legislature. It likely will make its way into the Clemson conference next year, too.