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Linking Land Use to Water Quality in South Carolina
by: Calvin B Sawyer, S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program


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The Setting
The Need for NEMO
Project Description
The NEMO Strategy

As coastal communities in the south become more populated, there are increasing pressures to develop previously undisturbed areas. Local land use decision-makers face considerable challenges in terms of recognizing and gauging the impacts their decisions have on water quality. An educational program is being undertaken that is helping local officials understand what issues are associated with polluted runoff and some innovative ways to address the problems before they become unavoidable. 
South Carolina Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) is a three-tiered informational, educational and technical assistance strategy for protecting local water quality by linking land use decisions with nonpoint source pollution. The program is being developed through a collaborative partnership between the SC Sea Grant Consortium, Clemson University, and the Waccamaw Regional Planning and Development Council. The South Carolina NEMO project has been adapted from a highly successful program carried out by the Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service.

The Setting

The natural features of the South Carolina coast are diverse and striking. The state contains 2,876 miles of tidal shoreline, 500,000 acres of tidal bottoms, and 504,450 acres of salt marsh (representing 20 percent of the East Coast total). Five major estuaries drain water originating from as far away as western North Carolina (Figure 1). The great diversity of wildlife inhabiting the coastal region of the state includes notable populations of striped bass, sturgeon, bald eagles, ospreys, alligators, and wood storks.

map delineating 5 major SC watershed areas
Figure 1– Major South Carolina Watersheds

The South Carolina coastal economy has many traditional sectors that depend on healthy water resources as well. More than 2,000 commercial fishermen harvest an average 15.4 million pounds of seafood worth about $25 million. In addition, $14.4 billion was spent in 1997 for recreation and tourism in the state, with over 60 percent of that total expended along the coast.

Finally, more than 25 percent of the state’s 3.5 million residents live in the state’s eight coastal counties. While the population of South Carolina increased by 11.7 percent from 1987 to 1997, it grew by more than 22 percent along the coast. This pace of coastal growth is expected to increase over the next two decades. These facts point out the primary social, cultural, economic, and environmental importance of South Carolina’s coastal region, and why the protection of its water resources is so essential.

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