Not only do droughts differ, questions about drought management differ. During a series of drought workshops held in McCormick and Anderson, S.C., in October, and during a meeting with the Lake Hartwell Association, new questions arose not previously addressed in Balancing the Basin. Here are the top five frequently asked questions we received at the workshops. You can also view our ever-growing list of FAQs by clicking the “FAQ” tab on the toolbar above, or click here: FAQ
Q1: Will demand for water downstream increase in the future as industry grows?
A1: Short answer: Probably.
However, this is not a bad thing. Industrial growth means economic growth and the benefits of that growth. It also means local and state planners must consider the availability of natural resources, especially water. The states issue permits for withdrawals from the reservoirs and the Savannah River – not the Corps of Engineers. It will be up to local and state governments and their citizens to ensure proper use of the available water in the basin.
Q2: Why are the reservoirs expected to provide the water volume to mitigate for pollution? Why not hold the industries that discharge into the river to higher standards for cleaning the water before releasing?
A2: As the saying goes, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Releases from the reservoir system dilute the industrial and municipal wastes discharged into the Savannah River. The states base their permitting rules on these established outflows. This helps ensure clean water for others further downstream – in both states.
The states set the volume of treated waste water discharged into the river and issue permits for those discharges. The states also set water quality standards for the river and enforce those standards on industry and cities. It is also important to keep in mind that industries downstream are currently in the process of establishing practices that will result in the discharge of cleaner water. But the processes cost millions of dollars and take time to develop.
Q3: Is the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project going to require increased outflows to keep salinity levels down?
A3: No. We designed the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) using the 1996 Savannah River Basin Water Control Manual (without the new drought plan). The design takes into consideration historic droughts and river flows based on current outflows. We will not require additional outflows to support the SHEP.
Q4: If there is a problem with dissolved oxygen in the river, will you correct it with outflows from the reservoirs?
A4: Our current outflows already help correct dissolved oxygen problems in the Savannah River although late summer quality remains a problem. Because dissolved oxygen is less of problem in the cooler winter months, our drought plan now allows for reducing outflows down to 3,100 cubic feet per second for November through January when we reach drought level 3.
Before we deepen the Savannah Harbor we will install an oxygen injection system into the harbor to mitigate for additional loss of dissolved oxygen due to the harbor expansion. This injection system, in the form of Speece cones, will prevent the need to increase water flows to maintain current dissolved oxygen levels in the harbor.
Q5: Where does all the money from hydropower production go? Is the district’s budget generated from hydropower?
A5: Taxpayers all across America paid for the construction of the dams and reservoirs. The money received from hydropower production returns to the U.S. Treasury to repay the public for the construction and operation of the dams. Hydropower production does not pay the District’s budget.
We generate electrical power but the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA), another federal agency, markets that power to utility companies which supply it to homes and businesses. SEPA turns the sales over to the U.S. Treasury.