The survey and mapping exercise, in turn, will help inform Clemson’s scientists as they study the watershed to identify the best management practices for combating pollution.
“In addition to developing a better, broader understanding of the watershed, the other parts of the watershed assessment include ‘windshield surveys’ — which really means driving around and touring the watershed and ground-truthing things that we may have seen on our GIS maps,” Scaroni said.
The plan will focus specifically on water quality, with bacteria and sediment the main pollutants of concern, in the waterways around Edisto. Bacteria, specifically fecal bacteria, is the primary focus and can come from a variety of potential sources, both human and animal.
But while bacteria is the foremost concern, sediment in the water is also a problem. Sediment creates turbidity — basically, cloudy water — which can affect light penetration and dissolved oxygen levels, which in turn make it difficult for the plants and animals that live in that water to survive. Sediment comes from areas of bare soil across the watershed or actively eroding locations, which researchers say can be identified through the watershed assessment and community input.
After identifying community concerns and potential sources of pollution, the goal is to create a watershed plan that identifies a roadmap to reducing bacteria and sediment issues. The end product will be a non-regulatory plan — meaning it will involve recommendations of voluntary best management practices across the watershed, not actual legal mandates.