Fermented and Flavored : South Carolina Gets a New Water Bill

Born out of the last drought, fermented and flavored for five years in the legislature, South Carolina’s first water surface permitting bill was signed into law last month. Remember, for most cases as long as an interbasin water transfer was not involved, one did not need any permit to withdraw water from a stream in South Carolina.

It a brand new day. This new bill establishes a surface water permitting program to be operated through the state Department of Health and Environmental Control(DHEC). This bill basically grandfathers existing users and sets up new requirements for new users.  A new surface water user would now have to show DHEC the following (directly from the bill):

(1)    the minimum instream flow or minimum water level and the safe yield for the surface water source at the location of the proposed surface water withdrawal;

(2)    the anticipated effect of the applicant’s proposed use on existing users of the same surface water source including, but not limited to, present agricultural, municipal, industrial, electrical generation, and instream users;

(3)    the reasonably foreseeable future need for the surface water including, but not limited to, reasonably foreseeable agricultural, municipal, industrial, electrical generation, and instream uses;

(4)    whether it is reasonably foreseeable that the applicant’s proposed withdrawals would result in a significant, detrimental impact on navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, or recreation;

(5)    the applicant’s reasonably foreseeable future water needs from that surface water;

(6)    the beneficial impact on the State and its political subdivisions from a proposed withdrawal;

(7)    the impact of applicable industry standards on the efficient use of water, if followed by the applicant;

(8)    the anticipated effect of the applicant’s proposed use on the following if the permit is granted:

(a)    interstate and intrastate water use;

(b)    public health and welfare;

(c)    economic development and the economy of the State. 

The bill stipulates existing surface water users can withdraw water in an amount equal to one of the following: 

  • documented historical water use,
  • current permitted treatment capacity,
  • design capacity of the intake
  • structure as of the effective date of this chapter,
  • design capacity of a pending intake structure permit application,
  • an amount necessary to recover indebtedness from an outstanding bond or revenue certificate issued through the sale of surface water, or for a publicly owned water utility
  • the safe yield of the utility’s existing or permitted water supply only reservoir, whichever is greatest.

This is a great first step, however,  the next step may take more time …watershed level planning and management.