COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Seven Midlands counties are now a part of what’s called the Western Capacity Use Area (WCUA) designation. This means people who rely on large amounts of groundwater for farming or other uses will soon have to apply for a permit to use that water.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has been regulating the state’s groundwater usage since the 1960’s, and last November, the board identified seven new counties where residents will now need to request a permit if they use at least three million gallons of water in one month.

In November of 2018, DHEC board members voted unanimously to determine that water usage in the seven listed counties were reaching levels high enough to be regulated

The South Carolina Groundwater Use and Reporting Act states that the general welfare of the public requires that groundwater resources must be put to good use, and may be subject to regulation in order to protect and conserve our groundwater resources.

In November of 2018, DHEC board members voted unanimously to determine that water usage in the seven listed counties were reaching levels high enough to be regulated. Some say permits will be unnecessary for these particular counties.

Cassidy Evans is the state legislative coordinator with the SC Farm Bureau. She says, “This is a heavy agriculture area, and that’s a little bit different than what has driven the past capacity areas to be designated. The difference, of course, with agricultural use and the various uses that you see on the coast, which is more population driven and public water supply – is the fact that agriculture use, of course, is intermittent. We only use for about three months out the year during the growing season.”

“It’s only a five-year permit and when you start looking at farm loans and being able to put in a new irrigation system, you can’t get a loan for five years and if you don’t have the certainty of being able to have access to that water over five years, it makes it a lot more difficult to get that agricultural loan, for instance, to put in place that much-needed irrigation system. So, that’s just one of the concerns with the capacity area being placed in this heavy agricultural area.”

Clemson Cooperative Extension and DHEC are partnering to deliver educational workshops, which are intended to answer any questions about the new requirements for water usage in the seven affected counties. Tuesday is the first of three.

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