The Water Log: Spring 2024

March 18th, 2024
By Erika Hollis

Hello, and Happy Spring from the Clean Water Team! 

As we head into spring, we wanted to explain some of the variable climate patterns we have been observing these past several months. This past fall, the Upstate experienced drought conditions that caused lower water levels in our lakes, streams, and rivers. But the months of January and February were characterized by flashy, strong storm systems that caused our rivers to overflow their banks carrying with them sediment laden runoff and other pollutants. In this newsletter we will examine such climate variability and its impact on our local water quality and quantity. 

Also, read on for some helpful reminders on how you can be a good steward of our water resources and a quick update on ongoing projects.  

Best wishes, 

Erika Hollis
Clean Water Director
Upstate Forever


Fall 2023 Conditions

As you may recall, Upstate South Carolina experienced dryer than normal conditions this past fall. Specifically, in November the Upstate was recognized as the driest region of the state with precipitation totals ranging from 20-90% of normal conditions. However, what people sometimes do not realize is that rainfall is directly related to streamflow, which impacts drinking water availability, water recreation, and so much more. 

To understand the impact that these climate conditions have on streamflow, we use United States Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow gage data. In the Upstate, there are approximately 45 USGS streamflow gages that record data in 15–60 minute intervals. This data allows us to monitor streamflow in real time and to compare data over a historic period of record. A period of record refers to how long a gage station has continuously monitored at that location. Some gages are older than others and/or have had noncontinuous monitoring. 

The USGS monthly streamflow map (below) compares the current monthly average streamflow to its historical monthly average streamflow conditions for the same month over the gage's period of record. In November 2023, Upstate counties saw a continuation of streamflow decreases that started in October. These drops were witnessed at gages in the Upper Savannah, Saluda, Broad, Catawba, and the Pee Dee River basins. 

With the somewhat drastic decrease in stream flow, it is important to recognize the impacts to both water quality and quantity. When there is less water in our lakes, streams, and rivers, the result is higher concentrations of pollutants like bacteria, nutrients, and sediment. This in turn requires more treatment from our drinking water utilities to make high-quality drinking water for our Upstate residents.

November streamflow data sourced from South Carolina ´╗┐Department of Natural Resources (2023).


winter 2023/2024 conditions

This winter’s increased rainfall led to an increase in stream water levels in January and February in the Upstate. Statewide, South Carolina received an average precipitation of 4.76 inches, 0.96 inches above the long-term average (1895-2022) for January. The Upstate received above normal rainfall levels: the Ceasars Head National Weather Service (NWS) station in Greenville County recorded 16.31 inches of rain, which was 10.29 inches above normal conditions. 

Similarly, according to USGS monthly streamflow data comparing January 2024’s average streamflow to the monthly average streamflow conditions for January over the gage's period of record, documented stream level recharge (streamflow increased to normal conditions) resulting from multiple rain events. Gages in the Upstate also showed that many counties had above normal to high streamflow conditions. 

January streamflow data sourced from South Carolina ´╗┐Department of Natural Resources (2024).


What climate variability means for clean water

The state climatology office has been tracking precipitation in the state for decades. What they have found is that overall, precipitation amounts are not significantly increasing, but those rainfall events are increasing in terms of intensity. That means that when it rains, it will rain in greater amounts over shorter periods of time. Therefore, we rely heavily on stormwater infrastructure to slow and filter these intense and flashy storms. 

However, as many cities across the Upstate like Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, and others are expanding their urban footprints to accommodate increasing populations, more pervious surfaces are being paved over. The result: these high intensity rainfall events have less space to slow down and filter pollutants, thereby allowing more pollution to be carried into our waters during rain events. 

What you can do:  

  • Advocate for policies to your local and state politicians that enhance riparian buffer protections (see our August 2022 Water Log for a refresher on what riparian buffers do for stormwater). 
  • Remain vigilant to the impacts of climate variability on our water ways both in terms of water quality and water quantity. 
  • Consider becoming a certified water quality monitor through South Carolina Adopt-A-Stream
  • Make responsible decisions to protect water quality through lawn care best practices and planting native vegetation (see link below). 

Lawn Care Best Practices 

Spring has sprung! It is officially that time of the year when we roll up our sleeves and get to work outside. While gardening and landscaping, it’s important to pay attention to how our practices can affect local water quality. 

For a friendly reminder on what practices you can incorporate into your lawn maintenance, please see our April 2022 Water Log.


Project Updates

Three & Twenty Creek Implementation - Phase 2
Our team has successfully kicked off Phase 2 in the Three & Twenty Creek Watershed! We look forward to continuing with project installation across this region by providing cost-share assistance to landowners for septic repairs/replacements, agricultural best management practices (BMPs), and land protection.

Tyger River Implementation - Phase 2
2024 is our last year working on this phase, and similarly to Three & Twenty Phase 2, we have funding for the cost-share assistance for the same BMPs.

If you or someone you know is interested in working with us on one of the projects or if you just want to learn more about our work, visit our website!


Until next time 

Thank you for signing up to receive The Water Log, Upstate Forever’s email newsletter dedicated to Clean Water news, issues, and information. We appreciate your interest and dedication to safeguarding the Upstate’s water resources.  

If you have any questions about this topic or would like to learn about another Clean Water issue in a future edition, please contact me at ehollis@upstateforever.org

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