Edisto Island 

Watershed Plan

Introducing the Edisto Island Watershed Plan

Beginning in May 2020, Clemson Extension and partners including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, and the Edisto Island Open Land Trust, worked with the Edisto Island and Edisto Beach communities to create a watershed plan to address pollution in the Store Creek watershed, the South Edisto River-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway watershed, and the Dawho River-North Edisto River watershed.  These three watersheds are referred to collectively as the Edisto Island Watershed, and they encompass the entirety of Edisto Island and the Town of Edisto Beach.  The plan was completed in Fall 2022 and approved by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in December 2022. 

What is a Watershed-Based Plan?

A watershed is the area of land that contributes runoff to a lake, river, stream, wetland, estuary, or bay.  If water pollution becomes a problem in a watershed, the development of a watershed plan can provide a roadmap to help communities identify water quality issues and address pollution sources. When implemented, watershed plans can improve and protect water quality in local water bodies, such as the tidal creeks and rivers around Edisto Island. Once a watershed plan is finalized and accepted by SCDHEC, grants are available through the Clean Water Act Section 319 Non-point Source Management Program. This 319 funding, administered through SCDHEC, can be used to implement projects identified in the watershed plan that will reduce pollution.

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Impaired waterways: A waterbody is impaired if it does not attain the water quality criteria associated with its designated use(s), as defined by SC DHEC. Uses include things like recreation, fishing and harvesting shellfish, navigation, drinking water supply, and agriculture. 

Total Maximum Daily Load: A TMDL is the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the waterbody will meet and continue to meet water quality standards for that particular pollutant. When applied to a waterbody, a TMDL determines a pollutant reduction target and allocates load reductions necessary to the source(s) of the pollutant.

Why does Edisto Island Watershed Need a Plan?

The waterways on and around Edisto Island are affected by pollution from several different sources. There are currently 24 locations across the watershed that have levels of bacteria (from fecal material) and turbidity (from sediment and algae) exceeding the acceptable limits during at least some part of the year.  As a result, there are restrictions on where shellfish (such as oysters) can be harvested throughout the watershed. In order to reopen the closed shellfish beds to harvest, pollution levels need to decrease. Creating the Edisto Island Watershed Plan is just the first step towards finding ways to reduce pollution and protect healthy waterways for the Edisto community.