Yearly Archives: 2014

The Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program completed its 13th week of sampling last week. That means we are halfway through the 2014 monitoring season! It’s a good time to stop and take a look back at what we’ve accomplished so far. Here is (half of) the 2014 sampling season by the numbers:

15 sample sites tested weekly
13 weeks of sample collection
195 samples available for collection
188 samples actually collected
7 missed samples (Lady C maintenance & staffing)
97% completeness rate
940 lines of data generated
24 samples exceeded South Carolina’s standard safe swimming
2046 MPN/100 mL highest sample tested
10 MPN/100 mL lowest sample tested
Charleston Harbor 1 (Melton Peter Demetre Park) – Best overall performance
Shem Creek 3 – Worst overall performance

A few things have changed since our wrap up blog post at the end of the 2013 sampling season. First, we added 3 new monitoring sites this year. One site is in Wappoo Creek and the other two are in Hobcaw Creek. See all of our sampling sites here. Second, we began our monitoring season on May 1 this year and will collect nine more weeks of data than we did in 2013. More data gives you more information about how safe your waterways are for swimming and us a better picture of what is happening in the water.

Finally, overall, bacteria concentrations have been lower this year than last year. This is likely a result of less rainfall: we began monitoring in May, but last year we started in July (July, August, and September are on average the wettest months). Remember stormwater runoff picks up pet and wildlife waste and the pathogens they can harbor and discharges it into our waterways making them unfit for swimming. Please pick up after your cat or dog. Our research with the Upper Inlet Creek Project shows that up to 40% of the bacteria in a suburban tidal creek may be from domestic pets.

Taking a closer look at our 2014 data, we can already start to see some trends. James Island Creek 2 and Shem Creek 3 continue to show high readings just like last year.  But, some other sites that may be impaired are slipping under the weekly radar. That’s because South Carolina uses a two part water quality standard to determine if waters are “swimmable”.

The first part screens for acute water quality issues and holds that if a single sample exceeds 104 MPN/100 mL the site is unsafe for swimming. This is what we use to report results on a weekly basis. The second part screens for chronic water quality issues over time and holds that if the geometric mean of all samples from a month exceeds 35 MPN/100 mL the site is unsafe for swimming. This is what we use to produce our Recreational Water Quality Scorecard. DHEC also uses this standard to determine if a site is impaired for swimming.

What does this all mean? Some sites that appear to be doing well based on single sample readings may still have long term problems. Sites we are keeping a close eye on:

James Island Creek 1
Shem Creek 1 (Shem Creek Park Public Dock)
Shem Creek 2 (Mill St Public Boat Landing)
Ashley River 2 (Brittlebank Park)
Charleston Harbor 3 (Battery Beach)
Hobcaw Creek 2

You can always find the latest water quality conditions on our website and on Swim Guide. Be sure to keep up with the latest information about the Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We regularly post about current water quality conditions to help you stay informed!

Finally, we want to give a big THANK YOU to the folks that help keep this program running smoothly! Many thanks to our dedicated team of Field Investigators, Dr. Vijay M. Vulava – Director of the Hydrochemistry Research Lab in the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and City Marina.

Charleston Waterkeeper is pleased to present this guest blog post by Dr. Vijay Vulava of the College of Charleston. Dr. Vulava is a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences and Director of the Hydrochemistry Research Laboratory. He also serves on Charleston Waterkeeper’s Board of Directors where provides scientific expertise and insight for our programatic activity. In this post Dr. Vulava recounts his recent visit to New Delhi, India with students from his study abroad course: Water Resources and Pollution in the Developing World.

CofC Group with Yamuna Waterkeepers

The College of Charleston maintains a close relationship with Charleston Waterkeeper, especially in their efforts to monitor water quality along Charleston’s many tidal creeks and rivers to ensure that the water is safe for all users.  Several students from the College volunteer their time to help Charleston Waterkeeper, while others work with them on research projects.  Recently a group of students and faculty members, including myself and Dr. Timothy Callahan of the Geology department, visited India for a biennial study abroad course to study water resources and pollution along the much revered Ganges River. With Charleston Waterkeeper’s help, we had the opportunity to meet with the Mid Upper Yamuna Waterkeeper, Ms. Minakshi Arora, and her husband Kesar, the Lower Yamuna Waterkeeper, in New Delhi this past June.

The Yamuna Waterkeepers are working very hard to help clean up, what is possibly, the most polluted river in India.  The Yamuna River is a major tributary of the Ganges River, and like Ganges River, has headwaters in the glaciers of the Himalayas.  However, as the river passes through pristine headwaters into the plains of northern India, the river water is heavily used for potable water, farming, industries, waste disposal, and energy production by a very densely populated region of India.  Point- and non-point source pollution discharged into the river makes it highly polluted, while the inept and corrupt local, state, and federal governments make cursory effort to clean up the river.  Incidentally, this river is also a major drinking water source for India’s capital, New Delhi, but downstream of the capital, the river is no more than a wastewater canal.


During our visit to New Delhi, Ms. Arora and Kesar (they are the entire Yamuna Waterkeeper) graciously visited with us on a very short notice and took time to talk about their advocacy and ground-level efforts to help clean up rivers in the Yamuna basin using traditional and conventional methods.  They work on a shoestring budget (charitable donations are their main source of funding) and partner with local universities and other nonprofits.  Ms. Arora answered a lot of our questions and also led a field trip to the banks of Yamuna near ITO barrage, which is a major drinking water intake for New Delhi.  However, the water here is already polluted and stench from the river was quite strong – one can only imagine how hard Delhi’s water treatment plant has to work to make this water potable. Downstream of the city the river receives all the treated (and untreated) wastewater that is discharged by the city’s wastewater treatment plants.  This river continues south along Agra and majestically flows in the background of the famous Taj Mahal.  Along the way the river continues to be abused and more waste from industries as well as numerous farms and towns is dumped indiscriminately – the river is no more than a vast sewer behind Taj Mahal during most of the year, until the monsoon rains revive the river at the end of summer.


Overall, it was a very interesting visit and meeting with the Yamuna Waterkeepers.  The College’s students learned about the role that nonprofits, such as Yamuna Waterkeeper, play in raising awareness among the common populace about water pollution and its link to societal wellbeing.  They not only learned a wide range of scientific issues regarding water use in India, but also the role that the government and the Indian culture plays on how water is used in this part of the world.  It was an eye-opening experience for us all.

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Although water is one of the most vital resources on the planet, waterways continue to decline in quality and quantity in virtually every part of the world. Earth is home to one billion cubic kilometers of water, yet only 2.5 percent is fresh water. Of that, less than one percent is clean and accessible, leaving more than one billion people living without safe drinking water.

SweetWater Brewing Company realizes the importance of protecting these vital water sources and has once again teamed up with the Waterkeeper® Alliance, and Charleston Waterkeeper – a local non-profit working to protect the community’s right to clean water – for their Save Our Water campaign, supporting the conservation of the Southeast’s most threatened rivers, streams and coastlines. The cause is near and dear to the brewery as clean water is also vital to the creation of their tasty brews.

Kicking off July 4 and running through Labor Day, SweetWater’s Save Our Water campaign encourages patrons to “give of your liver to save the river” by enjoying SweetWater’s seasonal Waterkeeper® Hefeweizen ale, purchasing campaign t-shirts, and making paper fish donations at participating restaurants, bars and retail accounts where the beer is sold across the Southeast. Locally, patrons can find the ale at Triangle Char + Bar, Bohemian Bull, Crafty Draught, Sesame Burgers & Brew, Closed for Business, Molly Darcy’s, Taps Brew, Obrion’s Irish Pub, Smoky Oak Taproom and Bay Street Bier Garten. Additionally, supporters can visit to donate online, or purchase co-branded merchandise.

In 2011 SweetWater launched Waterkeeper® Hefeweizen, a beer with a cause, helping to spread the campaign’s crusade right on the beer label. Now, as part of their seasonal Catch & Release line-up, the unfiltered brew made its return to shelves and draft taps earlier this June.

SweetWater founded the Save Our Water program in 2006 with its local Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in Atlanta, and efforts grew larger as the brewery did. Since the inception of the program eight years ago, SweetWater has raised more than $700,000 for the cause, with a whopping $150,000 raised in 2013 alone. Today, the Save Our Water campaign supports more than 35 Waterkeeper® members in Southeastern cities where the brewery distributes beer including Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia.

“Waterkeeper Alliance is excited to partner with SweetWater for the Save Our Water campaign,” said Pete Nichols, National Director of the Waterkeeper Alliance. “It’s always refreshing to see the business community step up in the protection of clean water and we’re grateful for their support.”

For more information on the Save Our Water campaign, upcoming events or to donate online, visit

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Director of Charleston Artist Collective, Allison Williamson

So much of what I love most about growing up and living in Charleston revolves around our waterways. My family spends as much time as we can exploring Charleston’s creeks and rivers by boat. We spend many summer afternoons jumping off docks on the backside of Sullivan’s island, fishing and crabbing around Dewees and Capers, and surfing on the Isle of Palms. We frequent the shrimp docks at Shem Creek to indulge in the local catch. For the past two years, we have spent my children’s birth parties Seining at the beach.  As we pull in the nets, we all marvel at what sea life we have pulled in only to quickly return it to the ocean. Oysters Roasts in the Fall are just part of our culture. Without question our water quality is vital to our lifestyle.

The Charleston Artist Collective members derive a lot of their inspiration from the beauty of our waterways for their paintings. Many of them gather each week to paint En Plein Air at different locations. They capture many local spots that make Charleston so alluring.

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We chose to support the Charleston Waterkeeper through our June and July sales because preserving our water quality is crucial to continue the enjoyment of the Lowcountry’s best asset. The Charleston Artist Collective was created to showcase local artists while supporting local area non-profits through a portion of our sales. We have raised close to $60k for charities since our launch in 2010. We believe giving back what we can helps Charleston continue to be such an amazing place to live. We appreciate the work of  Charleston Waterkeeper.

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Visit to purchase one of the works featured above and view the rest of the ‘Salt + Tide’ collection. 15% of total sales through July 31st will benefit Charleston Waterkeeper’s data-driven programs.


John and Caroline Irwin enjoy a day on Charleston’s waterways (Photo by Jason Stemple)

Some folks may think of Charleston Angler as merely a store, but I like to look at our local tackle shops as a community. True for so many industries in our town, visiting fishing enthusiasts are just as important to our angling community as the locals. Which is why Charleston Waterkeeper’s Junior Council found it important to raise awareness of the organization’s mission to the customers of Charleston Angler.

On Saturday, June 7th, we hosted the first ever “Charleston Waterkeeper Day” at Charleston Angler’s Mount Pleasant store. We were able to connect with Charleston’s passionate angling community by sharing information about Charleston Waterkeeper’s mission, including results from our Water Quality Monitoring Program and details about our Mobile Pumpout Program. We were able to connect with many new supporters who already share Charleston Waterkeeper’s vision to keep our waters safe, clean, swimmable, and, of course, fishable! In addition, the Charleston Angler donated a portion of the day’s merchandise sales to the organization! All in all, it was great progress to help sustain our mission to not only advocate for Charleston’s waterways but to educate about the ways to care for it.

My name is Caroline, and to be a member of Charleston Waterkeeper’s Junior Council means a lot to me. It means the sky is the limit! No idea is too big when it comes to helping keep our waterways clean and safe. My family has put on fishing tournaments for the past four decades, and we are planning to continue as a means to raise money for conservation. As users of these waters, we bear a great level of responsibility to serve as stewards of this natural resource. I also happen to be married to a fishing guide in town, John Irwin of Fly Right Charters–lending much of our personal quality time to be spent on the water. For us, it’s a matter of our occupations and our avocations! I think we can relate to a lot of you in that respect.

Therefore, go out and love the water. It is yours to enjoy and yours to safeguard.

Lastly, a special thanks to Caroline Rhodes and the entire staff of the Charleston Angler for hosting us earlier this month!

Best Fishes,
Caroline Smith Irwin
Founding Member of Charleston Waterkeeper’s Junior Council