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Four big problems with SC Water Laws


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Four big problems with SC Surface Water Removal Agricultural Exemptions - Learned from Walther Farms / South Edisto River. This specific presentation was given to the Aiken County Council on Feb 4, 2014.

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Four big problems with SC Water Laws

  1. 1. Four Big Problems with the Exemption for Large Agricultural Withdrawals S.C. Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act 2010 Act No. 247 Section 49-4 DHEC Regulation R.61-119
  2. 2. Four Big Problems 1. 2. 3. 4. Secrecy Pumping the River Dry Eternal Water Grants No Input Outside of DHEC
  3. 3. 1. Secrecy • Currently, the law allows for any agricultural user to request hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the river with no public notice. It is possible that neighbors won't know the water is being taken until AFTER the water is gone. We believe that our government should be more transparent and not give the appearance of secrecy and back room deals. • In DHEC’s public meeting held January 7, 2014, DHEC said the law requires us to approve an ag withdrawal with no public notice. (Source: 1:08:50 of audio at
  4. 4. 2. Pumping the River Dry • The current law defines “safe yield” based on a percentage of "mean annual daily flow“. At low flow periods, the withdrawal amount could exceed actual flow, and the river would run dry. In the case of the Edisto, U.S.C. Professor Allan James has demonstrated that the initial request (805 Million gallons/month) would have actually exceeded the total flow of the river during historic low flows, meaning they were permitted by law to take ALL WATER from the river. (Source: • In DHEC’s public meeting held January 7, 2014, DHEC admitted that an ag user could actually take the river to “no water for a particular day” and “there is no minimum instream number at which they would have to stop” (Source: Listen to 49:20 of audio at
  5. 5. 3. Eternal Water Grants • Under the current law, once an agricultural entity is granted approval of a surface water withdrawal registration, they can pump that amount of water from the river forever. We believe that large withdrawals should be reviewed and recertified regularly to ensure a fair allocation of the resource among all stakeholders. • In DHEC’s public meeting held January 7, 2014, DHEC confirmed that registrations “have no duration” and in effect are forever (Source: 54:15 of audio at
  6. 6. 4. No Input Outside of DHEC • DHEC has interpreted the existing regulations as excluding consultation with other government entities such as the Department of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. We believe that DHEC should provide notice to other relevant agencies and give them an opportunity to comment on the impact of any proposed withdrawal. • In DHEC’s public meeting held January 7, 2014, DHEC said there is no need to consult other agencies. (Source: 70:00 of audio at