The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has announced dates for two public meetings to provide citizens with an overview of a new water planning framework that will help guide surface water management in the Lower Savannah-Salkehatchie planning basin over the next 50 years.
The meetings will also serve as venues for engaging volunteers interested in serving on a council that will develop and implement the plan for the Lower Savannah-Salkehatchie River Basin. Meetings are scheduled in Walterboro at the Walterboro Wildlife Center on Thursday, Aug. 24 and in North Augusta at the North Augusta Community Center on Tuesday, Aug. 29. Both meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m.
In March 2018, SCDNR established the State Water Planning Process Advisory Committee to help draft a “framework” document that will guide the development of individual river basin plans for each of the state’s eight major planning basins. The Planning Process Advisory Committee includes representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Clemson University’s S.C. Water Resources Center, municipal and rural water systems, conservation groups, power companies and agricultural interests. In 2019, the group completed a report, the “South Carolina State Water Planning Framework,” which describes the river basin planning process and the intended contents of a river basin plan.
“The Planning Framework represents a foundation for the development of regional and state water plans, which are essential for our continued economic growth and protection of the resources and environment that we all share,” said Ken Rentiers, deputy director for SCDNR’s Land, Water & Conservation Division.
Each river basin plan will be created and overseen by a river basin council, a working group of stakeholders with water interests in the basin. The Edisto basin was the first basin to establish a river basin council, and the council recently completed its river basin plan (available at https://hydrology.dnr.sc.gov/edisto-basin-planning.html). River basin councils in the Broad, Saluda, Upper Savannah, and Pee Dee River basins also have been established and planning activities in those basins are ongoing. The Lower Savannah-Salkehatchie planning basin has been selected as the next basin to implement the new planning framework.
At its most fundamental level, a river basin plan will address four basic questions:
1) What is the basin’s current available water supply and demand?
2) What are the current permitted and registered water uses within the basin?
3) What will be the water demand in the basin throughout the Planning Horizon (50-year planning period) and will the available water supply be adequate to meet that demand?
4) What water management strategies will be employed in the basin to ensure the available supply meets or exceeds future projected demand?
As stated in the Planning Framework, “Answering the fourth question is the heart of the water-planning process and greatly benefits from cooperation and consensus among all stakeholders throughout the basin. A successful and equitable river basin plan addresses the effects all water users have on one another and on the resource.”
Public involvement is critical to the goal of ensuring that future generations of South Carolinians have secure, well-managed supplies of our most critical natural resource—water. You can download a copy of the “South Carolina State Water Planning Framework” and learn more about the Planning Process Advisory Committee and the research underpinning this initiative at: https://hydrology.dnr.sc.gov/state-and-river-basin-planning.html.