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South Carolina’s New Water Level Monitoring Initiative

The low-lying coastal region of South Carolina is highly vulnerable to tidal flooding and has experienced repeated impacts from both extreme and chronic flooding over the last decade. The complexity of these tidal systems and their connection with upland watersheds combined with the lack of widely distributed monitoring equipment has resulted in a lack of understanding of how to prepare for and respond to these events for local communities.

A solar powered water sensor affixed to a dock.

Isle of Palms water level sensor, photo by Nicole Elko, S.C. Beach Advocates.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the College of Charleston, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, and the S.C. Beach Advocates is supporting water level monitoring initiative that has resulted in seven new water level gauges installed along the state’s coast, as well as seven gauges in North Carolina. Further, a grant application supported by the Consortium was awarded in 2020 by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association to expand the deployment of sensors with an additional 40 planned for installation across coastal North and South Carolina in 2021-2022.

The gauges continuously collect water level data and were funded through a public-private Partnership where each participating municipality only had to provide $500 of the $2,500 total cost. These new gauges have greatly increasing the coverage of tidal monitoring in the region. Local administrators from each municipality receiving a gauge participated in a monthly call to provide feedback on installation, lessons learned, and data usefulness-creating a coalition for the use of these new technologies at the local level that persists today.