COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s environmental board plans to consider rules on whether anyone who wants to draw out large amounts of groundwater in seven western counties in the state will need a permit.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Friday evening a plan to regulate withdrawals of more than 3 million gallons (11.4 million liters) of groundwater a month in Aiken, Lexington, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, and Orangeburg counties, The State newspaper reported.
DHEC will begin collecting comments from the public and businesses and wants to present the proposal for a vote by the agency’s board in October.
The proposal comes after the newspaper reported groundwater levels dropping 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 4.6 meters) in the counties in recent years as large farms moved in.
“As the development of the groundwater resource continues, further water level declines will be expected and the potential for adverse impacts to current and future groundwater users will become more frequent and serious over time,” DHEC wrote in a report on the situation.
The report said several other factors have also led to concerning drops in groundwater levels including development and droughts.
Environmental officials are also carefully watching groundwater levels along the coast.