Source Water Protection Week is recognized this year from Sep 25th – Oct 1st. It is admittedly not a well-known week, but a critical reminder that the quality of our drinking water begins at the source. That source for 200,000 people throughout Anderson and Pickens Counties is Lake Hartwell. Protecting it is of the utmost importance.
As the drinking water provider for these people, we are active in source water protection on the local level, state level, and national level.
We are in the second year of implementing a watershed plan for the Three and Twenty Watershed, the watershed that drains to our drinking water intake. A concentrated focus has been on the lakefront property owners upstream of the intake. These projects will yield the biggest immediate impact on drinking water quality. $240,000 has been invested into the watershed so far through septic tank repairs and replacement. Out of the 22 total septic projects, 15 have been on the lakefront.
Lake Hartwell Partners for Clean Water (LHPCW) is a diverse group of stakeholders concerned about protecting the lake from both the Georgia and South Carolina side. We have been actively involved in this group since its inception. The group is now in the stages of forming into a nonprofit. LHPCW promotes Lake Hartwell while also implementing projects to protect the source of many economic, recreative, leisure, and drinking water benefits.
When we decided to participate in the SC Adopt-a-Stream program in 2018, we had no idea how beneficial it would become to us. The four main creeks that feed Lake Hartwell upstream of the drinking water intake are sampled once per month for various chemical and bacteria parameters. Where data on these creeks did not exist prior, it now does. The program recently celebrated its 5-year Anniversary where we were recognized for the success of the program, by both SCDHEC and Clemson University.
Water quantity is just as important as water quality. We currently serve on the the State Water Planning Process Advisory Committee as all parts of the state come together to create a holistic plan to account for the allocation of water in South Carolina. This is a massive endeavor, but a critical one as South Carolina continues to grow in population.
A lot of utilities and municipalities do not have the resources to dedicate a lot of time or staffing to source water protection. Furthermore, it can be difficult to apply research and studies to real world applications. The Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) has been addressing this for 20 years all across the country. We were honored when they asked us to serve on the steering committee for their newly formed National Watershed Research Network. We are excited to see what projects and resources birth forth!
Source water protection never ends. It takes the entire population thinking about how everyday habits affect the environment. May this week remind us that slowly, but surely, we can leave a better source of drinking water for our children and grandchildren.