CLEMSON, S.C. — Access to plentiful, clean water is critical for life and economic activity. South Carolina has typically been considered a water “rich” state, and surface and ground freshwater supplies have supported rapid population and economic growth for many years. However, the state faces challenges, including significant population growth, rapid land-use change, and variability in weather patterns attributed to climate change that can threaten the availability of water resources for sustainable future use.1 The late 1990s through early 2000s brought about one of the worst droughts in South Carolina’s history, which had long-term impacts on agriculture and timber industries, municipal water supply, and waterway health.2 As a result of drought events, coupled with growing demand for water resources, SC water managers anticipate future state-wide water shortages,3 which can have lasting impacts on South Carolina’s economy and residents. This article describes the main water use sectors in the state and provides an overview of recent annual water withdrawals.
Understanding how water is used and how much water is withdrawn from various sources will help sustainably manage water supplies into the future. Water is commonly used in South Carolina for drinking water; irrigation of crops and golf courses; production of electricity; manufacturing, mining, recreation; and support of aquatic ecosystems. South Carolina regulates both surface and groundwater withdrawals greater than three million gallons (MG) in any month and requires annual reporting to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
For a complete overview of South Carolina’s water use regulations, please see the Land-Grant Press publication “Water Withdrawal Regulation in South Carolina.”
–Clemson Extension Land-Grant Press