Columbia – A bill passed by the South Carolina Senate today is a good step toward ensuring reliable, predictable clean water supplies for the state’s communities and protecting the health of the state’s rivers and lakes, conservation groups said. American Rivers, the Coastal Conservation League, and other partners worked for years to negotiate the provisions in the bill.
“The majority of South Carolinians get their drinking water from rivers and lakes, so protecting the health of these waterways is essential,” said Gerrit Jobsis, Southeast regional director for American Rivers. “This bill is a critical milestone toward smarter, more cost-effective management of our limited water resources. It delivers the reliability and predictability that we all need.”
“South Carolina now recognizes that water is a public resource that has to be protected from overuse in order to protect fishing, recreation, and navigation. This bill is an important first step in protecting South Carolina against future droughts and other states that are after our water,” said Dana Beach, Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation League.
The Water Withdrawal Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act (S. 452) will give water managers a full picture of who is taking how much water and when, and where that water is being used. This full picture of water use is critical to effective water management and is essential information as South Carolina negotiates with other states over shared water resources like the Savannah, Catawba-Wateree, and Pee Dee rivers.
The bill also:
- Establishes a permitting system for water withdrawals over three million gallons per month and lays out requirements to protect fish and wildlife and downstream users.
- Sets seasonally variable minimum instream flows for new users that will protect migrating fish populations and floodplain wetlands, which are important for flood protection and clean water supplies.
- Requires new users to have contingency plans so that they can cease their consumptive use of water when stream flows get too low, protecting wildlife, navigation, recreation, and downstream users.
“Passing a water permitting bill out of the Senate is the culmination of five long years of legislative compromise. Sen. Danny Verdin’s steady leadership of the Senate Agriculture Chair ensured that all stakeholders were heard and delivered the first step toward managing South Carolina’s long term water needs,” said Ann Timberlake, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina.
“This bill will add an additional layer of protection for fisheries, wildlife and boaters,” said Ben Gregg, South Carolina Wildlife Federation.
Senators Campsen and Campbell, two key champions of the bill, voiced their support:
“Our state’s water resources are held in trust for benefit of the public, therefore the public’s use and enjoyment of those resources should be top priority when we implement a permitting regime among competing interests. Throughout the arduous process of passing this bill, my goal has been to assure that water resources and the public’s ability to enjoy that resource is given top priority and then the needs of existing surface commercial and agricultural water users come next in line, and finally future users. I am convinced that the legislation reflects that hierarchy of uses as best as we are politically able to accomplish,” said Senator Campsen.
“This bill will protect the streams and rivers and allow jobs to be maintained, expanded, and new jobs created. We protect those who have served South Carolina for years --agriculture, tourism, forestry, utilities, businesses, industries, and public water -- while maintaining seasonally adjusted minimum flows that will protect the fisheries and waters for recreation. This bill will allow South Carolina to plan for the future and protect a very critical resource for generations to come,” said Senator Campbell.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.