Initiative to begin developing Saluda River basin water plan


Clemson University, DHEC, SCDNR

By Stan Welch

Approximately one hundred stakeholders, or people with an interest in the health and future of the Saluda River basin, gathered at the ICAR campus in Greenville Tuesday. They included wildlife officials, scientists, utility providers,consumers, industry representatives, golf course operators, and anyone else connected to the Saluda.

Clemson University has recently become involved in the efforts to assess the availability of surface water in the Saluda basin, both now and in the future. The purpose of the gathering is to involve the various stakeholders in helping to develop a regional water plan, with the eventual goal of combining similar plans for the state’s other seven major river basins into a statewide water plan.

Representatives from SCDNR and SCDHEC, as well as Dr. Tim Cox, who developed the simplified water allocation model (SWAM) being used as the basis for the study, were on hand. They explained that the recently instituted surface water permitting process under DHEC has been one initiating factor in the study.

The permitting process necessitates longer term planning by water suppliers, and has resulted in Greenville Water making deals with several local municipalities to provide more water at a lower unit price, as part of the long term commitments they are seeking.

The Saluda River Basin Surface Availability Assessment is one of eight studies being conducted. The other river basins are the Edisto, Broad, PeeDee, Catawba, Santee, Savannah, and Salkehatchie basins.

Ken Rentiers, of DHEC, explained that, in order to meet the aggressive two year schedule for producing the state plan, several basins are being studied at once.

“We realize that two years is a pretty short time, but CDM Smith, the consulting firm brought in to manage and oversee the study, has done a great job of organizing this effort, and we think we can meet the deadline.”

The SWAM model has been used for similar planning in Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The model uses hindcasting as well as forecasting. In other words, they use historical data about the various rivers and tributaries in order to project how the river basin will respond to future conditions. “We take the best data we can accumulate, and we apply it downstream to calculate where shortages may occur, where water may be stored, as in reservoirs, diversions, or use of the water by agriculture, industry, or public use, and other factors” explained Dr. Cox.

Those present Tuesday were basicaly asked to become participants. The SWAM model is usable in the field on the new generation of personal electronic devices. Based on MicroSoft Excel software, it can be used by almost anyone to enter data. The wider the spectrum of stakeholders, the quicker and more comprehensive the gathering of data will be.