What you need to know about surface water
Please support H.3564 to amend the Surface Water Withdrawal and Permitting Act to assure that all users be treated fairly under the law if withdrawing more than 3 million gallons/month from our rivers. We will grandfather existing users under the law to protect our family farms and current permitted users. We must have a secure, fair plan for our rivers as we grow and prosper together.
Our Rivers, Our Heritage
Our rivers are what make South Carolina special. Whether the Great Pee Dee, the Edisto or the Saluda, they are integral to our quality of life, economy, and prosperity.
South Carolina’s Surface Water Withdrawal Act does not require permits for large agriculture withdrawals as is required for municipal and industrial withdrawals. Agricultural users register their withdrawals without the environmental safeguards required of others. This process is not protective of our rivers and gives DHEC and DNR little to no authority to manage our river systems wisely. We believe that all large users pulling water from our rivers should be treated the same. We should have a fair system that doesn’t pick the winners and the losers.
Protecting Our Small Farmers
Through the current registration system for farms, farmers are led to believe that what they pull from the river is a safe amount. Unfortunately, without a permit, farms are not required to have a back-up or contingency plan in place in time of drought so they do not affect downstream users, including other small farms. Under our current system having a registered water withdrawal does not protect farmers from excessive withdrawals by upstream water users.
An agricultural registration does not require public notice, giving no warning to neighbors and splintering communities. A registration gives a farmer a permanent right to pull from the river, but what happens to future and downstream users? While most farms may use very little water, there’s nothing in the current law to limit one or two large operations from taking most of the water out of one river. We should give farmers the security and stability to grow their business without draining their most vital resource, our rivers.
The Right Kind of Economic Development
As South Carolina continues to grow and prosper, we must make sure we have enough water to sustain our economic development. The SC Rivers Forever coalition embraces agri-business in this State. We need to be prepared for when farms from California and other states suffering from drought relocate to South Carolina by ensuring we have laws and regulations in place that both protect South Carolina farmers and our rivers before we allocate more water to new users. We put South Carolina, and its rivers, first.
Without permits, agricultural users can impact downstream industry and drinking water sources – existing permit-holders that depend on healthy flows in our rivers for business. We are in this together.
Please check out the SC River Forever coalition for more information.