A diverse group of partners calling itself the Lower Saluda Coalition has come together to start an enhanced water-quality monitoring program for the Lower Saluda and Congaree Rivers to encourage safe recreational use of the rivers during the summer season.
And on June 22, the coalition launched its first in a planned series of weekly water quality data reports and swimming advisories .
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is one of about 20 participants in the Lower Saluda River Coalition, which is made up of river-related businesses, environmental groups, local and state government, property owners, industry, utilities and other users of the rivers.
One of the coalition’s main purposes is to ensure the safety of individuals recreating on the rivers and to educate the public on issues related to natural waters.
Both the lower Saluda and Congaree Rivers are recreational destinations for public fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming and wading; and these activities involve contact with natural waters, which can periodically be affected by short-term pollution events, which most commonly occur from runoff after heavy rains. It is these issues the new program aims to address.
The initial objective of the coalition is to make water quality information more frequently and readily available to river users so they can make informed decisions on when to recreate in the river. The program website features maps of the river to present swimming advisories based on results of weekly monitoring of bacteria levels in the river compared to state standards for water quality.
This is the first program of its type for inland waters and rivers, but similar programs for coastal waters have been in place for many years in locations such as Myrtle Beach.
For summer 2017, the enhanced monitoring program will run from June through September, and in future years it will start earlier to run from May through September.
The program involves eight monitoring locations that will be sampled weekly and results from the sampling will be posted on the website the next day. People are encouraged to remember to check conditions before their next outings to the river.