By: Bureau of Water
May 1, 2019, marks the third year the Midlands Rivers Coalition will monitor water quality health in the major rivers of the Midlands of South Carolina. Weekly monitoring will be conducted from May through September and site data will be posted every Thursday on howsmyscriver.org.
The Midlands Rivers Coalition brings together outfitters, recreation providers, environmental organizations, state and local government, academia, industry, property owners, and other users of the rivers. The group was formed in 2016 to educate river users about the water quality of the Broad, Lower Saluda, and Congaree Rivers. These rivers are attractive destinations for public fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, and wading. Short-term events such as heavy rain or sewer overflows can sometimes negatively affect water quality. Stormwater runoff picks up chemicals, trash, and other pollutants and flows into a storm sewer system or directly into a lake, stream, or river. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged, untreated, into the waterbodies we use for recreating. Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into recreational areas and create health hazards, prompting an advisory to be issued.
Coalition members provide funding to support water quality monitoring and assessment of bacteria levels in the three rivers. If a water quality sample comes back above the state bacteria standard for swimming, a Coalition advisory is issued. Subsequent sampling is conducted the following day and results are reported the next afternoon. Providing current, easily accessible information about water quality health empowers the public to make decisions about when to recreate on the river.
As the Coalition enters its third year of monitoring, it’s celebrating some milestones. In 2018, over 300 water quality samples were collected, an increase of nearly 200 samples from 2017. In the 2019 season, the Coalition will increase information accessibility by placing 21 informational signs in heavy public use locations around the Midlands’ rivers. Most of the signs can be changed to indicate a water quality advisory when elevated bacteria levels are detected. The signs will also feature a Quick Response code that river users can scan for more information.
The Coalition hopes river-related stakeholders across the state will imitate this initiative as a model to enhance public awareness of the impact of stormwater runoff and commit to informing citizens about water quality health. For more information about the Coalition, and to review water quality conditions, visit howsmyscriver.org.