South Carolina’s current Surface Water Act was passed in 2010 after four years of debate and conversation between lawmakers, farmers, the business community, and even conservation groups and scientists.
Based on the best science available, the law is officially known as the South Carolina Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act.
The registration process, which establishes a minimum flow for a river and requires agricultural registrations to fit within a safe yield, was part of a stakeholder process with the approval of many conservation groups.
There has been a lot of misinformation put out in the media and online about farmers as it relates to the law. It is an attempt to scare the public and some lawmakers into making decisions not based on facts. The most galling is that there is no governing process for farmers to take water from our rivers.
It’s simply not true.
Agricultural surface water withdrawals must be first approved by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and are also subject to the provision of the State Drought Response Act. DHEC can absolutely deny a withdrawal if it is not within the “safe yield” limits.
What’s not applied to farmers in this law?
Political games and threats of lawsuits.
If we allowed politics to trump science, farmers could risk losing their crops and their livelihood. We could lose our food source and the largest economic engine in our state. We already see the negative effects with businesses being protested or sued out of existence in favor of special interests and their political games.
So you have to ask yourself – should politics decide how farmers water their crops or should we let science decide?
South Carolina farmers are under attack. If we do not stand up and support them by telling our legislators to stand behind science and fact-based systems for determining water usage – we all could lose.