S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Kiawah Island Groundwater Monitoring and Marsh Vulnerability Studies

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the Kiawah Conservancy, Town of Kiawah Island, and the Lowcountry Hazards Center at the College of Charleston, is conducting two projects on Kiawah Island: one focused on monitoring the island’s groundwater table and another focused on studying the vulnerability of the island’s marsh habitat.

A group of people set up a monitoring station.

Photo by Jennifer Woody, Kiawah Conservancy

While much attention is paid to the flow and accumulation of surface water, little is known about the characteristics of the groundwater table and its influence on the plant, animal, and human communities in coastal areas. The depth and salinity of subsurface groundwater are major factors influencing both the health of coastal ecosystems and flood conditions impacting human populations. Recognizing this gap in knowledge, the Town of Kiawah Island funded a collaborative research project led by experts from S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, Kiawah Conservancy, and the College of Charleston (CofC). The project funded graduate-level students from CofC to install 24 monitoring wells via a stratified sampling design created to sample groundwater conditions across different elevations soil types and locations on the island. Each well is equipped with continuous dataloggers measuring the depth of the groundwater table, with additional wells recording salinity.

The marsh vulnerability study is funded by The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the Town of Kiawah Island and their partners to conduct informed scenario planning, engaging with the local community to discuss green infrastructure and habitat restoration projects to be implemented. Data from this effort will play a major role in informing those discussions and future implementations on the island.