Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

We all know that Charleston is often referred to as the Lowcountry for its characteristically low lying coastal topography. This nickname though comes with some implications: we are more susceptible to damage from rising seas, storms, and flooding. The affects of flooding can be seen after every rain, especially during a high tide. It is not rare for streets downtown to become impassible, for storm drains to spew water in the opposite direction, and for the occasional kayaker to find herself paddling at the intersection of Church and Market Streets. Aside from the obvious nuisance flooding creates, there is an even more serious problem it creates…water pollution.

Stormwater (or percipitation in general) that does not soak into the ground runs over impervious surfaces (streets, roofs, cars, etc.) and makes its way downstream by way of a storm sewer system or more directly by running off into lakes, rivers, or estuaries. In its path, this stormwater collects chemicals and pollutants such as oil, gasoline, pesticides, and fertilizer. This is an obvious problem as it becomes a huge contributor to a degradation of our water quality. In Charleston especially, stormwater has an even longer opportunity to pick up pollutants and distribute them into our waterways. Beacause of the amount of flooding that occurs, water that would have otherwise run off a surface (and still collected a huge amount of pollutants), sits stagnant for a longer period of time thus becoming more and more contaminated.

After work yesterday I headed over to Vickery’s on Shem Creek and noticed some flooding in the parking lot that was pooring over from the adjacent marsh. What I saw was a bit disturbing. All of the trash and contaminants that were at one point moderatly contained within the parking lot had been collected by the flood waters and were now floating in our marsh. The video below shows the obvious debris that is picked up by flood waters and redistributed into our waterways…

The solution to this? Pick up your trash and be conscious of what might end up in our water after a heavy rain or a high tide…otherwise, stormwater runoff and flooding will pick it up for you. We all need to take part in protecting and preserving our most important and essential resource, our water.

Remember, take PRIDE, take RESPONSIBILITY, take ACTION.


Every year the Ocean Conservancy holds its “International Coastal Cleanup,” encouraging us all to spend a day to clean up our coastlines. On September 20, 2008 the SC Sea Grant Consortium and the SC Department of Natural Resources sponsored the 20th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep in South Carolina. Last year nearly 6,000 dedicated volunteers showed up to pick up litter and trash along South Carolina’s beaches, rivers, marshes, and creeks. 57-tons of debris, covering 1,345 miles of environmentally sensitive areas were removed during last year’s event. Throughout Beach Sweep/River Sweep’s 19 year history, 942.5 tons of litter have been collected and recycled when possible.

This year Charleston Waterkeeper helped coordinate the Folly Beach cleanup effort. With almost 300 volunteers from across the state (and country) we had everyone from school teachers, to students, boy scouts and girl scouts, and local celebrities. Volunteers swept from the Folly Beach County Park to the lighthouse-end of the island. The top three “culprits” found were cigarettes (3,258), bottle caps/lids (803), and food wrappers (510). Other peculiar items found include: fireworks, cloth flower petals, dog poop in plastic bags, a half of a telephone pole, a 55-gallon drum, lawn chairs, tent stakes, an acrylic fingernail, a horseshoe, 15 diapers, parts of a surfboard, a bilge pump, and underwear. A breakdown of the top eleven objects found on Folly Beach can be seen in the chart below.

Volunteers braved high winds and chilly temperatures during this year’s event. We even had vacationers and passing walkers join in on the cleanup efforts once they saw all the participants cleaning up the beach. Thank you to everyone who took part in Beach Sweep/River Sweep 2008, especially those who came out to Folly Beach and the other sites in Charleston! We couldn’t have had such a great success without you. We hope to see you all next year.

I will leave you with a Gandhi quote that was truly put into practice by all of the selfless volunteers that came out to help during this year’s Beach Sweep…

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


Beach Sweep

Last week the Waterkeeper Alliance Board of Directors approved Charleston Waterkeeper as the newest member of the Waterkeeper Family. Two other programs, the Choptank Riverkeeper in Maryland and the Loreto Baykeeper in Baja California Sur, Mexico were also approved. These new members bring the Waterkeeper Alliance total to 182 programs around the world.

We at Charleston Waterkeeper want to congratulate the other programs as we know first hand the hard work that has gone into the establishment of their organizations. The conversations I’ve had with individuals throughout the community have provided me with the advice, guidance, insight, and support needed to get this far. I want to thank everyone for all of their help over the past few months in making this program a reality…now, the fun (and work) really starts!

It’s OFFICIAL, there is a Charleston Waterkeeper!

I’ve come across two great articles detailing the problems we are facing in today’s ever-changing (and growing) world as water’s demand and in turn, its waste, is increasing rapidly. Both articles reveal an urgency to give attention to the issues surrounding our water supplies and how we use this delicate resource.

Scientific American explains in its article, “Facing the Freshwater Crisis,” that as populations increase, the demand for water is also increasing. This obvious relationship is often overlooked as we can take for granted the convenience of clean water for the use of “drinking, hygiene, sanitation, food production and industry.” However, unless governments (local, federal, and global) begin to shape policy around water conservation and water usage we could face devastating water shortages all over the world.

In a similar article, “Tossed Food Is Also Lost Water,” posted on the New York Times Dot Earth Blog, water is explained to be wasted indirectly throughout the world as food is wasted carelessly. “The amounts of waste are staggering. In the United States, nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year, worth about $48 billion, is discarded. The water it took to grow and process that wasted food amounts to about 10 trillion gallons, according to the analysis. Many European countries have similar losses, proportional to their size.”

Bo Petersen, reporter for the Post and Courier, has just written a great piece on the proposed Charleston Waterkeeper program, “Watching over the waters.” The article was published in Sunday’s paper (8/31/2008) on the front page of the “Local and State” section (B). Both Dean Naujoks, former Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, and Nancy Vinson, Program Director at Coastal Conservation League, offered great quotes in support of the endeavor. Thanks to everyone involved. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend.