Issue Position: Water Reform

Issue Position

By:  Don Bowen
Date: Jan. 5, 2009
Location: Unknown

Water Department Needed for SC

How many times a day do you turn on a spigot, flush a toilet, or stop at a water fountain? Probably more than you think and the truth is that we simply take the resource of clean water for granted. Water is one of the major issues in my district. I know this because I receive mail, phone calls and even get stopped in line at the grocery store to listen to your concerns. From my vantage point, it is time for scientific management, local input, and joint state and regional control of this God-given resource!

Until now we have relied on DHEC and DNR to plan, manage and solve our water problems. That situation demands that more attention be paid to regional needs. My recent analysis of state water concerns have found that these agencies have gotten too big and too diverse. Water is only one of the many responsibilities these departments manage - and they are not necessarily aligned on priorities or concerns. Their issues and efforts are simply too varied and numerous to effectively deal with water in a cooperative, scientific and timely manner. In fact, many of the recommendations currently identified in their own planning documents have not been analyzed for resolution.

DHEC and DNR also manage each of South Carolina's four water basins in a generic process as though they are all identical. This is simply not effective due to the great number of differences in each basin. Water level limits are a good example. And water amounts are not necessarily the issue. In a "normal year", even accounting for losses due to evaporation, South Carolina gets plenty of rainfall. It only takes a positive seven inches of water to meet all of our current needs in the state. More individual attention is needed. In fact, our current DHEC/DNR managers have already allowed 97% of the Savannah River basin's assimilative capacity (the amount of pollutants EPA will allow in a volume of water and still be safe for human consumption) to be allocated to Georgia. This severely limits South Carolina's ability for growth since assimilative capacity increases are a normal part of industrial growth. It is time for a change!

I believe we must create a single South Carolina organization specifically for water planning and management which will include enhanced, statewide, scientific data gathering methods and local, independent planning input for each water basin.

Our forefathers gave us the ability to change our government based on the times and needs. Both the time and the need dictate that this change be initiated immediately. I pre-filed a House Bill H3132 on December the 16th to form the flexible framework for this much needed independent water agency and to develop a modern, integrated, comprehensive water plan for the South Carolina. The plan would be developed through the input of a large number of water experts and representatives from various water related organizations, academic institutions, and other stakeholder groups within the state as well as each water basin.

Approval of this bill would permit resolution and balance of some highly important issues including: agricultural requirements, water allocation decisions, water level agreements, minimum flow standards, balance of economic needs across the state, future status of hydropower, salt water intrusion, pollutants, coordination with federal entities, and the needs of plants and animals in our basins. Funding can initially be transferred from current state water management agencies.

All our neighboring states have formed separate water management departments with independent basin management councils! All have or are developing new comprehensive water plans while South Carolina slides further behind in our water planning efforts. Bottom line is that if we do not have a planning and management process comparable to our neighboring states, we may lose our water to them through inter-basin transfers. My bill would offer protection for both interstate and intrastate water issues.

H3132 may not be a panacea for all of our water issues, but it is an excellent point to start and build what is necessary for now and is flexible enough to carry us into the future responsibly. You can find it in its entirety at bowenforhouse.com.

We must ensure water quantity and quality for all our future needs is not in jeopardy. We can, with a separate water department! It is no longer acceptable for major water issues to be handled in a "piecemeal fashion". The need is here, the time is now, and we must act responsibly.

Rep. Don C. Bowen
House District 8
Anderson, SC