Yearly Archives: 2016
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Today is Lowcountry Giving Day 2016 — a day to unite your community by supporting the work of your favorite local nonprofit organizations. Stand for your favorite local waterway by making a donation today: (or text “cleanwater” to 33923).

Great news: a very generous donor agreed to match your Lowcountry Giving Day gift — dollar for dollar — up to $5000. That means your $25 gift during Lowcountry Giving Day is actually worth $50. That’s twice the impact for your favorite waterway!

But that’s not all. Our friends at Stereo 8 stand for clean, healthy waterways too and are donating 20% of sales today to Charleston Waterkeeper for Lowcountry Giving Day! Join us at Stereo 8 tomorrow on James Island (951 Folly Rd) and dine with a purpose for Lowcountry Giving Day.

Charleston Waterkeeper stands for your right to safely fish, swim, paddle, or just simply enjoy clean, healthy waterways. Our vision is a Lowcountry where all local waterways and the life they support are healthy and fully protected by an engaged community of waterway stewards just like you. Stand with us on Lowcountry Giving Day: (or text “cleanwater” to 33923).

Every Wednesday, from May through October, we test bacteria levels at 15 hotspots for water-based recreational activity. That way, you know when and where it’s safe to swim, paddle, kayak, and sail. Sign up today to receive weekly water quality updates in your inbox so you have easy access to all the latest information: get water quality updates.

Stand up for your favorite local waterways during Lowcountry Giving Day. Make a donation at:

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Stand up for your favorite local waterways during Lowcountry Giving Day. Make a donation at:

Here in the Lowcountry, the salt marsh is often the first sign of the changing seasons. As the water and air warm during Spring, last year’s gray-brown Spartina gives way to a flush of new growth rising from the pluff mud in a cycle of yearly renewal. In just a few weeks, last year’s growth will decay, providing essential nutrients for the marsh ecosystem, and the new Spartina will rise in a spectacular, showy pop of vibrant green color.

Hobcaw Creek

Spring’s warmer air and water also bring a renewed flush of swimmers, paddlers, kayakers, and sailors enjoying our tidal creeks and marshes. Here at Charleston Waterkeeper, that means we’re hard at work preparing to launch our weekly water testing program for the season. Testing kicks off next week and this year, you can receive weekly water quality alerts sent directly to you: sign up here.

Our tidal creeks, rivers, and marsh never cease to amaze. Be sure to follow along as we post updates from the water on Instagram and Twitter every Wednesday.

Local scientists have also studied these dynamic systems as “sentinel” habitats that signal the health our entire estuary. What they’ve found is sobering — when only 10-20% of the land around a tidal creek is developed, polluted stormwater causes it’s health to decline. That means our suburban and urban tidal creeks like Shem Creek and James Island Creek aren’t as healthy as they might look, and they need our help.


Shem Creek, for example, fails to meet its water quality standard for safe swimming. We also uncovered that DHEC doesn’t provide Shem Creek with the strongest water quality standard for uses like swimming and paddling. That’s why we petitioned DHEC to upgrade Shem Creek’s water quality standard to better protect the public’s health and force a quicker clean up. Read more about the work from Bo Peterson in the Post and Courier:

Sullied Shem Creek not safe to swim; state challenged to force clean up.

It’s tough when our testing work reveals the special places we all love aren’t healthy. Especially, popular spots like Shem Creek and James Island Creek. But, as a community, we have to confront these problems to make them better. That’s why it’s inspiring when folks like James Island Creek locals Mary Edna Fraser and John Sperry stand up and become stewards for their special creek. The Post and Courier’s Bo Peterson tells James Island Creek’s story here:

Cleaning the creeks; pollution problems likely up to residents to fix.

Solutions won’t come quick or be easy. Combating polluted stormwater and renewing the health or urban and suburban tidal creeks is a community effort. It works best when we’re all engaged and working together as waterway stewards. As your Waterkeeper, we promise to remain vigilant and work diligently to ensure all your waterways are clean and healthy for fishing and swimming.

Water Quality Scorecard

Our 3rd annual Recreational Water Quality Scorecard is now available online! If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to check it out. Pitch in now to help make 2016 testing season a success: support water quality testing.

The Scorecard measures the “swimmability” of 15 sites we regularly test for levels of enterococci bacteria, a type of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). FIB indicate the presence of fecal contamination, which may contain pathogens that pose a health risk. Translation: swimming in water that contains high levels of FIB can make you sick!


Bacteria levels are tested weekly during the summer months to let you know when and where the water is safe for swimming. To stay up-to-date with the latest data, sign up to receive our weekly water quality updates. 2016 testing starts on Wednesday, May 4.

How’s the Water?

Our annual Scorecard provides you with a comprehensive review of all data collected from our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. During the sampling season, we tell you when and where it is safe to swim on a weekly basis. During the off season, we take a big picture look at our sites and assess overall recreational water quality. That way, you know how your favorite waterway is doing, both short-term and long-term.


Unfortunately, many local waterways do not meet state water quality standards for safe swimming due to high levels of enterococci bacteria. Swimmability can vary from week to week, but long-term trends reveal many of our waterways are unhealthy for swimming.

So who’s the culprit? The Scorecard outlines several potential sources of fecal bacteria, and they’re not exactly what you might think. Bacteria sources include:

scorecard sources

Fecal contamination is tricky because there’s often more than one source to blame. Our homes, yards, and pets can all potentially bear some responsibility. While many small sources can add up to a big problem, that doesn’t mean we can’t make a positive impact.

Take Action!

Our Scorecard also provides you with actions you can take to be a good steward of your local waterway. These include:


Bacteria contamination starts with our actions on land, and therefore, we must all work together to tackle the problem.

Consider polluted flood water, or stormwater – it’s a major contributing source because it carries pollutants directly into our rivers, creeks, and harbor. Those pollutants had to start somewhere before they were picked up by stormwater. Perhaps your own backyard?

Research conducted by a former Charleston Waterkeeper graduate student showed that fecal bacteria in our creeks could be reduced by 40% if everyone in Charleston picked up after their pets. Collective individual action can make a HUGE impact, so do your duty!

Get Engaged!

Most importantly, use the Scorecard to get engaged! It contains all the necessary tools to help you speak up and advocate for your local waterway. DHEC is responsible for determining which waterways are healthy and for working with communities to restore unhealthy waterways. Your feedback plays a big role in prioritizing DHEC’s restoration efforts. Contact DHEC, tell them you saw Charleston Waterkeeper’s 2015 Scorecard and are concerned about the health of your favorite waterway for swimming, SUPing, or kayaking. They listen!

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Get involved locally as well — while the scorecard outlines individual actions, don’t stop there. Invite Charleston Waterkeeper to talk with your community group about water quality and stewardship. Reach out to your city or municipality and express your concerns about local water quality. Be active and be engaged in the process — attend public hearings, write to your representatives, provide feedback during community planning efforts.

Your Waterkeeper

At the end of each monitoring season, we submit all of our data to DHEC. We then work to ensure our unhealthy waterways are prioritized for restoration efforts. We also work to ensure all waterways are protected by the right water quality standards. For example, Shem Creek is not afforded the most protective water quality standard for swimming and water based recreation. As a result, it hasn’t been correctly identified as unhealthy and prioritized for restoration. On Monday March 28 we petitioned DHEC to change that. Years of funding cuts have hampered DHEC’s testing and restoration work. Our monitoring work and local knowledge fills that gap and provides a higher level of protection for your favorite waterways.

IMG_2850Join Us!

Working together as a community for clean, healthy water is an achievable goal. We saw the impact local action can make when our coastal communities stood up together against offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Join Charleston Waterkeeper as member today and stand with us for clean, healthy waterways.