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