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Stand up for your favorite local waterways during Lowcountry Giving Day. Make a donation at: https://text.gives/cleanwater

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.

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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.