Water Wars — S.C. lawmakers debate water permits
U.S. Water News Online
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Drought and booming development could mean water wars in South Carolina and the first shots are being fired in the General Assembly.
Lawmakers are considering legislation requiring permits and limiting the water large users like electric plants could pull from rivers and streams.
The proposals are designed to make sure "water users share the pain" during drought, according to Bud Badr, state hydrologist with the Department of Natural Resources.
But the measure has already been changed to exempt power plants, agriculture and sand mining operation -- something that has smaller water users upset.
"I think we all ought to be accountable to the people of South Carolina," said Clay Duffie, general manager of Mount Pleasant Waterworks. "You can live without electricity. You can live without food for three weeks. But you can't live without water."
A spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas said power generators shouldn't be subject to restrictions.
"Electric generation is such a critical component of the state's infrastructure," Eric Boomhower said. "We don't see where there's a need to require power-producing companies to go through that process."
Georgia and North Carolina, which share watersheds with South Carolina, are working on similar laws.
Last year, South Carolina sued North Carolina over that state's plans to pump as much as 36 million gallons per day from the Catawba River, which supplies both states. That lawsuit is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It puts us in a tough position if they have limits on their waters and we don't," said state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, a sponsor of the water permit bill. "Any time you talk about regulating something that's not regulated now, people get concerned."
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