Watershed Health

Saving Lake Greenwood

Since 2003, Upstate Forever has been dedicated to improving the health of the Saluda-Reedy Watershed, which culminates in Lake Greenwood. During the last ten years, Upstate Forever has worked to implement strategic actions that were identified after five years of research on the watershed to reduce the main threats to water quality – sediment, nutrients, and bacteria.

Download the Saving Lake Greenwood Report (PDF)

Although the scale of these solutions varies, much of this work focuses on land use in the most rapidly developing portions of the watershed – the City of Greenville and Greenville County. 

Additionally, due to the tremendous support and cooperation from a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the watershed, the US EPA has approved the new “5R” approach to address remaining water quality concerns in the Reedy River. Led by Greenville County, the City of Greenville and ReWa, the 5R process is allowing a stakeholder-driven process to identify the right solutions for our community.


Lake Greenwood's History

Lake Greenwood was created between 1935 and 1940 by the construction of the Buzzard’s Roost Dam at the confluence of the Saluda and Reedy Rivers near Chappells, SC. With 212 miles of shoreline, the 11,400-acre reservoir in the Upstate is an important source of drinking water for residents in the area while providing recreation, tourism, and economic opportunities.

However, an algae bloom in 1999 revealed the vulnerability of Lake Greenwood and the delicate balance necessary to maintain its quality.  In response, Upstate Forever received grants from the V. K. Rasmussen Foundation and Fujifilm Manufacturing USA, Inc. to form and coordinate a coalition of academic, non-profit, private, and government interests to learn more about the health of the watershed and ways to address the threats to the lake. The Saluda Reedy Watershed Consortium (SRWC) spent five years conducting research on the Saluda-Reedy Watershed, making it one of the most thoroughly studied watersheds in the Southeast.

The SRWC identified sediment deposition from upstream development and nutrients from stormwater and wastewater as key agents in the problems that have troubled Lake Greenwood. To date, 300 acres of Lake Greenwood have been filled with sediment – meaning two billion gallons of water storage have been lost – and nutrient concentrations remain a concern. SRWC researchers found that it will take a 50% reduction in phosphorus to entirely abate another algae bloom.


Project Timeline


  • The Saluda Reedy Watershed Consortium (SRWC) completed five years of research on the Saluda-Reedy Watershed, making it one of the most studied watersheds in the Southeast.


  • Upstate Forever developed a summary of the findings of the SRWC and an action plan for protecting and restoring the lake’s water quality – our Saving Lake Greenwood report.


  • April: Upstate Forever launched the Saving Lake Greenwood campaign, coinciding with the listing of the Saluda River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers, a national river conservation organization.


  • With broad input, including from Upstate Forever, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) included limits on phosphorus discharges from upstream wastewater plants on the Saluda River.


  • July: As part of the permits, the agency approved an innovative trading agreement among the eight wastewater treatment plants along the Saluda that allows phosphorus to be controlled in the most cost-effective manner.

  • DHEC nearly finalized the nutrient TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load requirement) for the Reedy River, which called for a 60% reduction in phosphorus and 40% reduction in nitrogen from stormwater runoff.


  • As a result of our advocacy, Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens introduced a bill instituting a statewide ban on dishwashing detergents containing phosphates, as recommended by the Saving Lake Greenwood effort.


  • ReWa replaced the previous Pelzer and West Pelzer wastewater treatment plants with a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant in Piedmont, the first among those in the trading program to institute phosphorus reductions.  The new plant consolidates wastewater treatment and improves discharges by eliminating 56% of phosphorus, 89% of total suspended solids, and 78% of total nitrates.

  • March: Greenville County Council officially adopts the Stormwater Banking Program (Residential), which is a voluntary incentive program to encourage new residential developments that are better for water quality.

  • June: The Greenville City Council officially adopts the Stormwater Banking Program (Commercial), which encourages right-sized parking lots and improved stormwater management.

  • September: With encouragement from Upstate Forever, the City of Greenville Council approves the first ban on coal tar sealants within South Carolina.

  • Upstate Forever develops a Watershed Based Plan to improve water quality within the Big Creek, Craven Creek, Grove Creek, and Hurricane Creek subwatersheds, which all drain to the Saluda River.


  • April: Web of Water: Reflections of Life Along the Saluda and Reedy Rivers – the stunning book that takes you on a journey through the watershed is released. Books are available for $40; proceeds support Upstate Forever’s Saving Lake Greenwood work.

  • May: Upstate Forever hosts successful rain barrel sale to reduce stormwater runoff impacts.

  • November: Wild & Scenic Film Festival

  • December: Upstate Forever receives a grant to implement the Watershed Based Plan by installing on-the-ground water quality improvement projects within the Big Creek, Craven Creek, Grove Creek and Hurricane Creek subwatersheds.

  • December: Upstate Forever, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Save Our Saluda reach an agreement in principle with Duke Energy to remove the coal ash stored in unlined basins along the Saluda River in Anderson County.


  • March: Kick-off meeting of the Reedy River Water Quality Group to launch a new stakeholder driven approach (the “5(r)” process) to improving water quality that the USEPA is testing in our area.

  • April: Coal ash threat to the Saluda River will be remedied! Southern Environmental Law Center, Upstate Forever, and Save Our Saluda finalize the agreement with Duke Energy to remove the coal ash stored at the W.S. Lee Facility in Anderson County.

  • November: Upstate Forever completes installation of water quality improvement projects throughout the Walnut Creek subwatershed, effectively removing 1,650 lbs. of nitrogen/year, 608 lbs. of phosphorus/year, 301 tons of sediment/year and 4.3e13 colonies of bacteria/year from the Reedy River.


  • April: SC DHEC proposes to remove Lake Greenwood from the Section 303(d) list (aka the “impaired waters” list) for phosphorus. However, the Lake continues to be impaired for aquatic life and nitrogen.


  • Upstate Forever continued to work towards improved water quality in Lake Greenwood through our work by participating in the 5R and Saluda Watershed Improvements programs.


  • Upstate Forever continues to actively participate in the 5R program to advocate for meaningful water quality improvements in the Reedy River watershed and corresponding arm of Lake Greenwood.

  • May-June: Upstate Forever holds 2 rain barrel workshops in Laurens and donates 60 rain barrel kits to the public through Fujifilm USA and LCWSC.

  • August: Upstate Forever releases the Reedy River Blueway map.


  • Upstate Forever, in partnership with South Carolina Rural Water Association, secured grant funding from SCDHEC to develop a Watershed Based Plan addressing bacteria, nutrient, and sediment pollution in the Lake Greenwood watersheds. Learn more about our work to protect drinking water

For more information about Upstate Forever's Saving Lake Greenwood Campaign, contact Erika Hollis, Clean Water Director, at ehollis@upstateforever.org.


Photo: Jon Holloway

Error Message