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Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
University of Colorado
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Quick Response Report #136

South Carolina Drought Mitigation and Response Assessment:
1998-2000 Drought

Cody L. Knutson
Water Policy Consultant
Lincoln, Nebraska

Michael J. Hayes
Climate Impacts Specialist
National Drought Mitigation Center
Lincoln, Nebraska

May 2001

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMS-0080977. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center.

Citation: Cody L. Knutson and Michael J. Hayes. 2002. South Carolina Drought Mitigation and Response Assessment: 1998-2000 Drought. Quick Response Research Report #136. Boulder, Colorado: Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado. URL:

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
  1. Introduction
  2. History of South Carolina Drought Management
  3. Study Methods
  4. Study Findings
    1. Recreation and Tourism
    2. Agriculture
    3. Large Public Water Suppliers
    4. Small Public Water Suppliers
    5. Upland Rural Water Systems
    6. Aquatics and Marine Resources
    7. Forestry and Timber Issues
  5. Comments and Recommendations
    1. General Recommendations
    2. Drought Response Committee Recommendations
    3. Tourism and Recreation
    4. Agricultural Production
    5. Water Suppliers
    6. Rural Water
    7. Environmental Issues
    8. Forest and Timber Reserves
  6. Further Research and Revision
  7. Bibliography
  8. Additional Resources
  9. Acknowledgments

Executive Summary


South Carolina is blessed with an abundance of water, although its distribution is uneven across the state and from season to season (SCDNR, 1998). These disparities were made especially clear during a once-in-a-hundred-year drought lasting from June 1998 through December 2000, and still continuing in 2001. This study was undertaken to provide a current "snapshot" of the state's primary drought concerns, impacts, and mitigation and response measures. The study included field and phone interviews with forty South Carolina citizens and government representatives.

Summarized Findings and Recommendations

Drought Response Committee (DRC) Recommendations

Tourism and Recreation

Agricultural Production

Agricultural producers and state planners continuously express frustration over their lack of control in determining current national farming policies. Drought losses place an additional strain on their limited resources. However, there are many drought mitigation actions that planners can undertake that will also assist the agricultural community in general, such as:

Water Suppliers

Rural Water

State planning personnel suggested several areas of focus that may help alleviate rural water problems:

Environmental Issues

Forest and Timber Resources

Further Research and Revision

This study was conducted as a "snapshot" survey of South Carolina drought impacts and concerns. Drought, however, is a long-term phenomenon. Additional studies should be initiated not only to investigate more fully the issues brought up in this report, but also to monitor the state's long-term evolutionary drought impacts, mitigation, and response measures. These studies should be well documented to ensure the persistence of a state "drought memory" and dispersed throughout the state to foster a common understanding in regards to drought impacts and planning directions. The state Drought Response Program, relevant legislation, and plans should also be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure their relevancy

I. Introduction

South Carolina is blessed with an abundance of water, although its distribution is uneven across the state and from season to season (SCDNR, 1998). These disparities were made especially clear during a once-in-a-hundred-year drought lasting from June 1998 through December 2000 and still continuing in 2001. This drought caused widespread impacts throughout South Carolina, from which the state may take years to completely recover. To learn from and build on this experience, a study was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of South Carolina's Drought Response Program. The study was made possible, in part, by a quick response grant from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado and the gracious hospitality of the State of South Carolina. The grant program is designed to obtain valuable information soon after the occurrence of a natural hazard. Because of the short nature of this study, the results represent a "snapshot" of the primary concerns being addressed by South Carolina in dealing with this current drought. It is hoped that South Carolina and other states will use the results of this study to reduce their vulnerability to drought.

II. History of South Carolina Drought Management

South Carolina has one of the oldest drought response programs in the United States. The South Carolina Drought Advisory Committee was established in 1982 to "examine drought impacts and develop a means for response to such situations" (SCWRC, 1986). Subsequently, the South Carolina Water Resources Commission established the Drought Advisory Committee in 1983, which formulated the first comprehensive plan for managing drought within the state. This plan was recognized by the state with passage of the South Carolina Drought Response Act of 1985. It was one of the first state drought plans. (As of December 2000, only thirty-seven states have or are in the process of developing a plan to respond to drought.)

The Drought Response Act established procedures to monitor, conserve, and manage the state's water resources during periods of drought. It also established six drought management areas based on climatic divisions and a drought response committee within each management area. Additionally, it called for the establishment of a state drought coordinator. South Carolina's permanent state drought coordinator is the only such position within the United States and is a unique asset to the state. The Drought Response Act was amended in 2000, primarily to adjust drought management areas to correspond with the state's four major river basins, restructure the drought response committees, and clarify existing procedures within the act.

Although the state has extensive experience in drought planning, drought continues to take a large toll on the citizens, economy, and various ecosystems within the state. Because of the nature of drought, these impacts are geographically widespread and affect many economic, social, and environmental interests. A review of these effects will demonstrate the pervasive nature of drought and the difficulties involved in its management.

III. Study Methods

This study utilized the services of the South Carolina Drought Coordinator, Hope Mizzell, to establish contacts across the state. These contacts were visited during a field investigation from September 25 to October 1, 2000. During this trip, site visits were made to interview state employees, county officials, large and small municipality water system operators, farmers, coastal citizens, lake resort owners, and other affected homeowners and private industry professionals. Follow-up telephone interviews were also conducted to gain perspectives from interests that were not contacted during the initial field investigation. These were primarily to timber, energy, environmental, and marine resource interests. In total, forty representatives of drought-affected areas were interviewed, providing a great amount of detailed information. These interviews were used to produce a qualitative analysis of the impacts of and responses to the 1998-2000 drought.

IV. Study Findings

People often focus on the negative consequences of drought, but in this case, many success stories were also highlighted in discussions across the state. The following findings illustrate some of the primary successes, as well as the drought management concerns, noted by a wide variety of public officials and citizens of South Carolina.

A. Recreation and Tourism

Tourism is one of the primary sources of revenue for the State of South Carolina. This study found that the "ripple effect" from drought-related impacts in this South Carolina industry are significant. The direct drought impact is on local tourism operations, with secondary impacts affecting the general service area through reduced employment opportunities, losses in sales and the generation of sales tax revenue, and a reduction in recreational activities. As an example, businesses surrounding Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie conducted a brief survey of economic losses resulting from the low lake levels during the summer and fall of 2000. They reported losses of more than $3,000,000 for July and August of 2000. Depending on the size of the business, typical losses ranged between $30,000 and $120,000 for selected businesses for the two months. Reported losses included the extension and/or closure of boat ramps; lost gas sales; the loss of vendors, forcing some owners to buy retail supplies to stock their shelves; the closure of lake-front stores; decreased motel and campground rentals; personnel layoffs; decreased revenues from restaurants, pontoon and boat rentals, and fewer tour-guided fishing and recreational trips; and increased boat repairs due to boats hitting exposed stumps and incurring heavy sediment loads in engines (in one case, a marina had twenty boats that could not be repaired because they could not get them out of the water).

Losses may continue to accumulate beyond 2000 as return business could also be lost in future years due to frustrations experienced by customers during the drought. For example, it was reported that one major sponsor decided that they would not host another fishing tournament in the near future on Lake Marion because of the diminished conditions of the lake in 2000. Other clients that kept boats at marinas stated that they would not be returning since their boats were grounded and could not be moved for the entire summer season. As of December 2000, many boats were still grounded since lake levels had not rebounded.

Business owners felt that they had the capacities to withstand a "normal" drought, but this especially severe three-year drought surpassed their coping abilities. It was stated that if drought continued into 2001, several operations would be forced out of business. The Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion survey asked the question, "If the drought continues in the Spring [of 2001], will you be able to open?" Twenty-three respondents did not answer, thirteen said "no" or some variation of that, four did not know or said that it was "questionable," and five said "yes" or "probably." These numbers illustrate the seriousness of the situation.

Business operators felt especially frustrated that upstream reservoirs were not facing the same circumstances. They stated that upstream reservoirs had held back sufficient amounts of water to maintain their needs, while leaving the lower reservoirs in serious trouble. In addition, they were upset that the local hydroelectric plant, from which they leased lake-front property, was not managing water to meet their needs. This was seen as especially troublesome since hydroelectric power only produces roughly 3% of the state's energy needs (South Carolina Energy Office, 2001), thus bringing up issues of beneficial use. Owners stressed the need for a cooperative agreement among water users on the lakes to ensure adequate lake levels during these times of crisis. They felt that the governor should also "jump on board" with a relief package that focused on assisting lake businesses in remaining solvent and promoting cooperative agreements between lake users to ensure that this situation did not happen again.

The State of South Carolina also expressed concern that parks and recreation interests were not more clearly represented in drought planning efforts. Although welcome at drought meetings, Parks and Recreation is not designated a voting seat on the drought response committee.

From a power generation perspective, dam operators reported that they were trying their best to manage the drought situation. Their main problem was the lack of expected inflow into the reservoir systems. Operators typically release water every spring in anticipation of high inflows, based on an estimated "rule curve." That is, they release water from the reservoir to provide room for the expected spring inflows. During the last several years of drought, they have not received the anticipated inflows, leaving the reservoirs at lower levels. In the case of Santee Cooper, the company operating the dams for Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, this has meant that they have been forced to reduce summer water releases and subsequent hydropower generation and replace the lost power from other sources. Because other sources of energy cost more to produce, the switch cost Santee Cooper approximately $6.5 million from April to December of 2000. As for passing additional water downstream to other reservoirs, some operators also felt that the additional flows would not be enough to significantly raise water levels in downstream reservoirs in many cases because of natural in-stream water losses. Santee Cooper also stressed the difficult situation they are in because the company must release water in order to prevent salt water intrusion problems and meet the in-stream flow requirements downstream.

On a positive note, the drought has forced some tourism-dependent businesses to begin organizing and working toward new solutions and cooperative agreements for drought preparedness and response. Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion businesses have formed the Committee for the Preservation of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, a subcommittee of the Fisheries Division of the national Wildlife Action group. Approximately 140 businesses make up this committee. Since our field visit, representatives of this group have met with Santee Cooper to work on enhancing drought management agreements. In response, Santee Cooper has agreed to dredge areas surrounding boat launches to assist business-owners in maintaining access to Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. This service would be provided "at cost" to the businesses around the lake, who could then work out a suitable payment schedule as part of their lease with Santee Cooper. The Committee for the Preservation of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie also spoke with their local drought response committee. At this same meeting, the state promised to explore economic assistance opportunities on their behalf.

B. Agriculture

Drought has caused significant agricultural impacts throughout the state over the last three growing seasons. The impacts highlighted during the study ranged from limited water for livestock, deer foraging losses, reduced feed crops, and lowered crop quality, to the total loss of row crops in some areas. As an example, a young dairy farmer was forced to water cattle from a municipal water tap when streams and impoundments ran dry. Although the farmer was fortunate enough to have an additional source of local municipal water, the higher water rates were causing an additional financial burden of $500 per month on the farm. This particular farmer was eventually able to install a new well through the USDA's Emergency Conservation Program. The program has already contributed $1.2 million toward 50/50 cost-share well-drilling grants for livestock and poultry producers in South Carolina. The program was highly praised for its rapid implementation time and application process. However, the farmer also expressed concern over the reduced quality and quantity of his feed sources (i.e., silage) due to the drought conditions.

Row crops such as cotton and corn were also severely affected by the long drought. Some fields were not even harvested as a result of the devastation. Some larger producers were able to utilize irrigation, but many reported that they could not afford it because of high costs and the relatively small size of their fields. The average farm size in South Carolina is roughly 233 acres, compared to the national average of 470 acres (South Carolina Agricultural Statistics Service, 1997), and, indeed, many of the fields are as small as 10-12 acres, making them hard to irrigate effectively. Even with irrigation, expenses were reported to be high, crop losses continued, and groundwater declines and availability were also seen as problems.

Because of unreliable rainfall, many farmers plant a variety of crops in the hopes that one variety will make it through a drought, but farmers are becoming more reliant on cotton, which is one of the more drought-resistant crops. However, even some cotton crops were completely lost during the recent drought. Universal negative sentiments were also expressed over fertilizer and herbicide applications that were not activated because of the lack of precipitation. Farmers stressed that many operators use best farming management practices, take advantage of state and federal technical assistance and federal financial assistance programs, and respond to weather forecasts, but that they continue to accumulate debt during drought, especially during multiple-year droughts.

Farmers also expressed concern for agriculture-dependent businesses and communities. They felt that these entities must continue to work together for their continued viability and were appreciative of some businesses that were trying hard to help farmers during this drought. It was reported that some businesses were assisting farmers with debt deferments and reduced interest rates.

Farmers and local county commissioners indicated that the State Soil and Water Conservation Districts were also a success in that they provide a good communication system between local environmental planners and district constituents, as well as between local interests and the drought response committees. This is seen as important not only to the farming community but other environmental interests in general.

Farming in South Carolina is inherently tied to national farm policies. Low crop prices, increased fuel prices, and limited crop insurance policies make drought losses especially damaging. Since most economic drought relief for farmers is directed by national programs, local perceptions are that such programs are out of the hands of the state. Farmers did express appreciation for the assistance provided by federal programs but felt that it was not enough. They felt that insurance and subsidies should, at least, cover their expenses during times of drought so that they could begin again the next year without being further in debt. In addition, the agricultural community expressed frustration that their concerns were not weighed as heavily as those of larger producers from the midwestern region of the United States. Although smaller in scale than operations in other states, farming is still a strong part of the social fabric of South Carolina. These respondents noted that accumulated debt and the general agricultural conditions are demoralizing for the region's farmers. One fourth-generation African American farmer stated that he just couldn't see persuading his daughter to take over the family farm when she could take advantage of better opportunities elsewhere. This common theme is highlighted by the average age of a farmer in South Carolina - approximately 56 years (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994).

The State of South Carolina also expressed concern about the plight of South Carolina farmers. They noted that state personnel have continuously attempted to provide technical and managerial support to the state's agricultural interests, but that large-scale financial relief packages are beyond their capacity. They stressed that the state has also been involved in dealing with a widening variety of interrelated environmental and agricultural interests in the state by creating non-adversarial forums for discussion and mitigation. For example, the U.S. Farm Bureau (personal communication, 2000) reported that farmers lose approximately $53 million per year in crops because of deer foraging. The DNR has been working over the last five years to develop cooperative solutions with local farmers to address the problem. State personnel echoed the thoughts of farmers in stressing that additional federal loans were not the answer. Other means, including the possibility of grant assistance, are seen as necessary for ensuring the viability and quality of life of South Carolina's agricultural and agriculture-dependent communities.

C. Large Public Water Suppliers

In general, large municipalities feel that they are best able to withstand the effects of drought. It was stressed that large municipalities have the resources to develop plans and water sources that meet long-term water needs. Planning personnel stress that long-term vision is a key in meeting ever-increasing demands placed on them by users and expanding development efforts. The Spartanburg Water Supply System is one large water supplier that was minimally affected by the recent drought because of their long-term water supply planning and their close working relationship with relevant state agencies. Although the plan development and implementation required high initial capital investments, the rewards are especially visible during the multi-year 1998-2000 drought.

Large water suppliers' main concern revolves around the issue of local flexibility in user restrictions during drought. Many of these suppliers invest large amounts of money in preparing for times of shortage. When a drought declaration is made by the state on a regional basis, placing mandatory water restrictions on users, they lose revenue. For systems that still have adequate water storage, this declaration may supersede mitigation actions that have been taken by the water supplier. Suggestions included allowing the public water suppliers to regulate their own services except under times of extreme drought, or granting decision-making authority to local drought management teams within the corresponding drought management area for enhanced local flexibility. Another suggestion was made to include a representative of public drinking water interests on the State Drought Response Committee. Recommended candidates include a water supplier or a representative from the American Water Works Association or other related agency.

Some water suppliers also expressed frustration over the amount of regulation placed on them while the power industry was virtually unregulated. They also feel that industries are granted leniency in developing new water sources, often at their expense. On this matter, more inclusive, cooperative, long-term planning is seen as necessary to ensure an equitable and efficient use of the state's water. Increased education and communication were highlighted as key points for building a strong foundation between competing interests. State guidance is seen as necessary to increase education on long-term planning methods to all water-related entities, provide timely information on the state's water resources (which they are doing well), and create the proper forums and legislation for ensuring that all water users are evenly represented in water access and regulation.

Suppliers did express appreciation regarding the state's current efforts at providing information on statewide water availability and other drought information, especially the data provided by the State Drought Response Program web site. Although they do not always see "eye to eye" with state planners, they also recognized the great value of having a state drought coordinator and the accompanying drought planning structure.

One example of a large public water system adopting proactive mitigation strategies based on long-term planning and understanding the nature of drought is the Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW), which has had to deal with the combined issues of rapid growth and drought during the past several years. This system, located along the coast and serving approximately 50,000 customers, uses groundwater as its primary water source. Some of the MPW's mitigation actions that will help reduce drought impacts during future droughts include: 1) a local drought ordinance submitted to the state drought coordinator planning specific responses during a drought, 2) a growth cap on new permits into the system to prevent strain and increased vulnerability of the system, 3) a three-tiered "increasing block" rate structure that is adjustable during droughts, 4) detailed monitoring of well levels, 5) regular leak detection to maintain peak efficiency, and 6) seasonal storage into the aquifer for later use during periods of high demand. Finally, MPW officials felt that their very active public education and communication emphasis was extremely helpful in building customer support of MPW operations, especially during droughts.

D. Small Public Water Suppliers

Small water suppliers are often more vulnerable to drought than their larger counterparts. Their limited resources often restrict long-term planning options. That is not to say that long-term planning should not be done; rather, it necessitates creativity and longer water planning horizons. The city of Landrum in northwestern South Carolina is one example. There, city officials have undertaken both short- and long-term water planning efforts as a result of a crisis situation during the summer of 1999. In terms of short-term planning, the city has undertaken several mitigative actions (such as implementing a leak detection program that reduced water usage by 18%), purchased back-up supplies such as a spare pump, adopted a modified version of the state-recommended drought ordinance that dropped voluntary water use by 8-11% during the summer of 1999, dredged their reservoir, published water system statistics in their local paper, and worked with the Nature Conservancy to acquire an additional water source on Conservancy property. They are still working on acquiring additional water supplies and modifying water rates to meet their short-term needs, and they are also developing a 40- to 50-year plan. Since providing water use guidelines and informing the public about their current water situation and future needs, city planners feel that the public has been very responsive and receptive to their actions. They also feel that the recent drought provided the appropriate context for motivating the community in these endeavors.

Even with abundant water supplies, there are inevitably times when water will be in short supply. Restrictions on water use are often necessary, and water emergencies are a real threat, especially for small water systems. This threat is exacerbated when other circumstances such as chemical contamination reduce available water supplies. This was the case in the town of Lexington in central South Carolina during the summer of 2000. A local chemical leak contaminated one water supply source and drought severely depleted the other. City personnel stressed that cooperation among small public water suppliers in the area was essential in getting them through the drought. Great success was achieved because of the interconnections between the local suppliers and their willingness to share their valuable water resources. During the emergency, water was transferred between systems to ensure at least a minimal amount of water for service areas.

A strong concern was also expressed over conflicts between competing water users during drought. Along rivers and streams, upstream water use resulted in situations where not enough water was being delivered to meet the needs of public water suppliers. Because of traditionally shared water rights in the state, suppliers feel that there is an unclear designation of beneficial water use during times of drought. It was brought to our attention that the Department of Health and Environmental Control does have legal authority to regulate beneficial use in matters of health and human safety but that the judicial system was hesitant to hear such suits. With state water laws based on the principle of shared water uses, this is a difficult situation, but one that informants feel must be addressed during times of drought. City officials also recommended that state water laws be revised so that emergency water supplies for a community could be obtained in cases involving public safety issues. The South Carolina Drought Act does enable the State Drought Response Committee to establish a forum for water conflict resolution (negotiation/mediation), but the option has not yet been utilized.

The smaller water suppliers saw the role of the state drought coordinator as "a livesaver." The coordinator was seen as especially critical during drought response efforts as she provided an easily identifiable point of contact for guidance and technical assistance. Because of limited resources, these suppliers stressed that they rely heavily on information provided by the State Drought Response Program.

E. Upland Rural Water Systems

Geology plays a primary role in determining available water sources in the upland region of South Carolina, most of which is classified as the Piedmont physiographic province. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (1998), "water stored in the Piedmont region is controlled by the location and size of fractures in the bedrock and the thickness of the overlying weathered portion of the bedrock. Replenishment of this water is primarily from precipitation." Rivers and streams also contribute as water sources but are often limited in volume and distribution.

The primary sources of water for rural homeowners are bedrock fractures and unconfined sediments. Most rural homeowners rely on shallow "bored wells" in unconfined aquifers that are vulnerable to aquifer depletion during drought. Although more economical in the short run, the pumping capacity of these wells is often diminished when rainfall fails to maintain groundwater levels. Other homes use "drilled wells" that capture water in deeper bedrock fractures. Although much more expensive, these wells are typically able to produce water longer during periods of drought. Adding to the cost of these wells is the uncertainty associated with the fracture distribution. It may take several drilling attempts to locate a fracture with adequate water, if one is located at all. Many bored wells were significantly affected during the 1998-2000 drought, and the state has implemented stricter guidelines for the installation of these types of wells. It was stated during interviews that state and federal assistance is not currently available for these rural homeowners, except perhaps in very specific circumstances such as low-income HUD loans.

State personnel suggested four areas of focus that may help alleviate the rural water problems: increased public education, low-interest loans, the development of alternative water sources and management techniques, and continued investigation of external funding assistance. Increased public education about basic water principles and local geology may help citizens play a more proactive role in their own water management. Similarly, low-interest loans may relieve some of the financial burden in developing appropriate water sources not only during times of emergency but also in advance of a drought. Developing alternative sources of water, such as community wells from high-producing areas and small impoundments, was also given a high priority. Included in this discussion was the need for additional mapping of favorable development areas, enhanced water-related databases, alternative management strategies, and funding to carry out all of these activities.

Other water system operators expressed similar concerns about rural homeowners, but stressed that limitations have been placed on rural water systems because of federal regulations. Rural water systems are subject to strict EPA guidelines on water quality, which small systems are often unable to meet because of the necessary infrastructure and personnel training costs.

F. Aquatics and Marine Resources

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, their office has received calls from people concerned about the high concentration of fish due to low water levels, especially in the rivers near the coast. The concerned citizens state that the high concentrations are allowing fisherman to catch them at a much higher rate, "exploiting" some vulnerable species. In addition, the DNR trout hatchery is operating at a reduced capacity. Flows have been reduced to one-third of normal, limiting the numbers of trout that can be produced. Subsequently, the DNR is running several months behind in stocking trout around the state.

Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion were said to be two of the lakes most affected by the drought. The reduced operation of the DNR fish lift at these lakes has been limiting the ability of certain fish species to move up system and spawn. However, there have not been any extraordinary fish kills reported because of the drought. A DNR representative also reported that there has been a reduction in revenue to the state from licenses, and that the financial losses will likely continue to linger for several years as people go elsewhere for more reliable fishing.

A DNR representative brought up a number of drought-related concerns about aquatic plant species within the state. The main concern revolves around drought effects on the growth of exotic, or invasive, species. It was noted that the extent of losses due to exotic aquatic species doubled in drought years. Drought lowers lake levels, changing the distribution and population of these nuisance species, as well as causing algae problems. It also interferes with mitigation actions aimed at controlling these species, such as a program utilizing carp to remove unwanted species. Addressing these concerns increases state expenditures, putting additional strain on its limited resources.

One environmental group did express some frustration with the state's response to stream-related environmental needs. They discussed their efforts to get the state to establish minimum streamflow standards in accordance with environmental needs - efforts that have gone unheeded. They believed that environmental issues were "not in the loop" in terms of water quantity issues. However, they had higher praise for the state in terms of water quality issues. They noted that the state has been actively involved with several environmental groups in dealing with several water quality issues at the state level.

Environmentalists also expressed frustration with South Carolina's current drought regulations and legislature. They stated that South Carolina's government agencies are relatively progressive with the introduction of new ideas. State agencies will suggest legislation, seek public input, and adopt suggestions from environment groups, but the legislative process then becomes "bogged down." Industry gets involved and says "we don't want to go beyond federal standards," so the legislature will balk at the passage of the innovative approaches. "Good ideas always get stopped by the legislature."

G. Forestry and Timber Issues

The timber industry is the third largest manufacturing industry in the State of South Carolina (personal communication, South Carolina Forestry Commission, 2001). The state contains roughly 13 million acres of forested land in addition to commercial tree nurseries. Of this acreage, 67-68% is owned by private landowners, 20% by commercial companies, and the remainder is public forest land. A State Forestry Commission representative reported that seedling survival has been a large problem in the state over the last three years because of drought. Not only are there costs to replant these seedlings ($50/acre), but there is also the loss of the year's growth. In some places, replanting has been necessary in each of the last three years. For example, the seedling survival over the last three years for loblolly pine was 80%, compared to 85-90% in a normal year, and for longleaf pines the survival was around 50%, compared to a normal year of 75%. It was reported that there are cost-share programs that will cover 40-50% of the replanting costs.

Other losses were reported from southern pine beetle outbreaks. There are some losses due to the pine beetles every year, but it is much worse during drought because they target stressed trees. Losses due to the southern pine beetle (and other dark beetles) are estimated at $40 million for 2000. The 1960-1997 annual average is only $750,000 per year. Losses for 2000 were the second highest in recorded history, behind 1995, during which there were $110 million in losses. There have only been four years with losses of more than $10 million.

The state's response to the beetles was to fly foresters over the region to look for outbreaks. When they were identified, the state would contact the landowner and provide them with information on how to control the outbreak. Media spots were also provided to the local media, including information to help identify whether damage was from the southern pine beetle or from other types of beetles. With help from the federal Forest Service, maps were produced showing the affected counties and local outbreak zones. The state also worked with the landowners, loggers, and mill operators to make sure the affected trees were moved quickly to mills for processing. Since timber quality reduces rapidly, a quick response does salvage some lumber for the landowner.

Although there were problems with seedling and other tree losses, state forestry officials were especially pleased with the relatively low number of acres damaged by forest fires. Although the number of fires in 2000 was slightly above normal, the acres burned were below normal. They attribute much of this year's success to an information campaign employing the media and public service announcements. These efforts were aimed at increasing the public's awareness of fire danger and providing them with recommendations on how to reduce fire threats. State officials said that the low fire season allowed their fire crews to help fight fires in other states that were in need of assistance, as they are part of a 13-state compact to battle fires in the southeastern United States.

V. Comments and Recommendations

As pointed out by the National Drought Policy Commission (2000), drought education, mitigation, consensus building, and the establishment of appropriate financial safety nets should be the cornerstones on which to build a drought planning structure. South Carolina is well on in its way in promoting these efforts. Local planners have already worked together to develop appropriate recommendations (such as those included in the South Carolina Water Plan [SCDNR, 1998]) for short- and long-term water management within the state. Some of the South Carolina Water Plan recommendations were "based on the existing requirements of the South Carolina Drought Response Act of 1995" (p. 12).

Our study provides recommendations toward the expansion of these efforts, based on suggestions received from across the state and experience gained by working with other states and the National Drought Policy Commission. Because of the highly legalized nature of the state drought response plan, our recommendations are tailored for both long-term actions that might require legislative approval and short-term actions that could be implemented immediately.

A. General Recommendations

B. Drought Response Committee Recommendations

C. Tourism and Recreation

D. Agricultural Production

Agricultural producers and state planners continuously express frustration over their lack of control in determining current national farming policies. Drought losses place an additional strain on their limited resources. However, there are many strategies that state and local planners can undertake to address drought concerns that will assist the agricultural community in general. Many of these mitigation measures are discussed on the web site of the National Drought Mitigation Center (2001) ( Some important mitigation actions that were stressed by South Carolina citizens are:

E. Water Suppliers

F. Rural Water

State planning personnel suggested several areas of focus that may help alleviate rural water problems.

G. Environmental Issues

H. Forest and Timber Resources

VI. Further Research and Revision

This study was conducted as a "snapshot" survey of South Carolina drought impacts and concerns. However, drought is a long-term phenomenon. Additional studies should be initiated to not only more fully investigate the issues brought up in this report, but also to monitor the state's long-term evolutionary drought impacts, mitigation, and response measures. These studies should be well documented to ensure the persistence of a state "drought memory," and dispersed throughout the state to foster a common understanding in regard to drought impacts and planning directions. The State Drought Response Program, relevant legislation, and plans should also be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure their relevancy.

VII. Bibliography

Knutson, C. L., M. Blomstedt, and K. Slaughter. 2001. "Agricultural Producers of Howard County, Nebraska: Perceptions of Drought Preparedness and Response." Drought Network News, Spring Edition.

National Drought Mitigation Center. 2001. WWW:

National Drought Policy Commission. 2000. "Preparing for Drought in the 21st Century." WWW:

South Carolina Agricultural Statistics Service. 1997. "South Carolina Agricultural Statistics." WWW:

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). 1998. "South Carolina Water Plan." Columbia, South Carolina: Land, Water and Conservation Division.

South Carolina Energy Office. 2001. "Background on Renewable Energy." WWW:

South Carolina Water Resources Commission (SCWRC). 1986. "The South Carolina Drought-1986." Columbia, South Carolina: SCWRC.

Thompson, J. 2000. "Ag Chief: Bailouts Abet Status Quo." Omaha World Herald 136 (59) (December 13): 1.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1994. "Census of Agriculture, Geographic Series, South Carolina State and County Data." AC 87-A-40, County Data Table 1, July 1994. WWW:

Wilhelmi, O. V. 1999. Methodology for Assessing Vulnerability to Agricultural Drought: A Nebraska Case Study. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dissertation. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska.

Yarnal, B., and K. Dow. 2000. "Using Weather and Climate Forecasts and Managing Community Water Systems in South Carolina." Unpublished Paper. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina.

VIII. Additional Resources

Department of Health and Environmental Control. 1998. "State Primary Drinking Water Regulations: R.61-58." columbia, South Carolina: Bureau of Water.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). 1987a. "General Characteristics of South Carolina's Climate." Climate Report No. G5. Columbia, South Carolina: South Carolina State Climatology Office.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). 1987b. "Model Drought Response Ordinance. "Columbia, South Carolina: SCDNR.

IX. Acknowledgments

This project was funded with grant support from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder as part of the center's Quick Response Research program. Cody Knutson and Michael Hayes would like to thank the Natural Hazards Center for the funding that made this research project possible. The authors would also like to thank Hope Mizzell, South Carolina's Drought Program Coordinator, for her organization of the visit to South Carolina, as well as her genuine hospitality. We also thank the other South Carolina officials and citizens who assisted in the successful completion of this project and made us feel very welcome in their state. A special thanks goes to those people we visited across the state, including: Drs. Gregory Carbone and Kirstin Dow (University of South Carolina); L.C. Greene and Sidney Varn (Lexington); Ken Tuck, David Robison, Judy Pierson, and Dan Bennett (Spartanburg); H. Lee Mitchell (Greenville); Nathan Williams (Spartanburg County); Brad Powers (Landrum); Harry Wimberly, Melvin Crumb, Clyde Livingston, James Glover, Ken Ott, Jonathan Williams, and Bethel Durant (Orangeburg County); Rhonda Hobby (Summerton); Sonny Briggman (Santee); Richard Spera and Kevin Davis (Cross); Al Jones (Pineville); and Clay Duffie (Mount Pleasant).

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June 18, 2001