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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

South Carolina: Fishing Creek

Adding Agricultural Best Management Practices and Repairing Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Improves Water Quality

Waterbody | Problem | Project Highlights | Results | Partners & Funding

Waterbodies Improved

Urban and agricultural runoff contributed fecal coliform bacteria and nutrients to the Fishing Creek watershed, causing violations of the water quality standard. As a result, South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) placed 11 sites in the Fishing Creek watershed on the 1998 and 2002 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) lists of impaired waters for fecal coliform. Stakeholders installed agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and repaired onsite wastewater treatment systems to reduce fecal coliform and nutrient levels. Based upon an assessment in the year following implementation of the project, two of the eleven sites now meet South Carolina's water quality standards for fecal coliform.


Meredith Murphy
SC Department of Health
  and Environmental Control

This photo shows an outline of South Carolina with a shaded area showing the location of the Fishing Creek watershed.

Figure 1. The Fishing Creek watershed is in north-central South Carolina.

This photo shows two cows drinking from a concrete trough.

Figure 2. Agricultural BMPs such as reinforced creek crossings and alternative water sources (wells and troughs) limit livestock access to streams and provide clean drinking water.



The Fishing Creek watershed (Figure 1) drains approximately 288 square miles in the Piedmont region of South Carolina's York and Chester counties. The creek empties into the Catawba River downstream of Fishing Creek Hydroelectric Station and the Fishing Creek Reservoir near Great Falls, South Carolina. Land use in the watershed is predominantly forest (65 percent); other uses include cropland (13 percent), pastureland (14 percent) and urban land (5.3 percent).

Urban and agricultural runoff contributed fecal coliform bacteria to the Fishing Creek watershed, causing more than 10 percent of samples collected to exceed the instantaneous 400 colony-forming units (cfu) per 100 milliliters (mL) component of South Carolina's fecal coliform water quality standard. As a result, SCDHEC placed 11 sites in the Fishing Creek watershed on the 1998 and 2002 CWA section 303(d) lists of impaired waters for fecal coliform.

SCDHEC developed a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for these sites, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved in June 2002. In the TMDL, SCDHEC determined that that nonpoint source pollution was primarily responsible for Fishing Creek's water quality impairments. SCDHEC identified the top three fecal coliform sources as runoff from cattle-grazing pastures, direct deposition of manure into streams and ponds by livestock, and failing onsite wastewater treatment systems. All the houses in the watershed use onsite wastewater treatment, and the systems were calculated to have a failure rate of five percent, or approximately seven systems in the drainage area. Project partners developed a watershed-based implementation plan for all 11 sites, with each site serving as the basis for a separate subwatershed management unit.

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Project Highlights

To meet the designated water quality standard and the load allocation outlined in the TMDL, project partners sought to identify and significantly lower fecal coliform pollutants in the Fishing Creek watershed. To address these pollutants, project partners provided local landowners with information on sources of fecal coliform loading and helped them to implement BMPs within the target areas. Project partners evaluated and prioritized proposed BMPs based on which would offer the most cost-effective benefit to water quality.

As part of this project, landowners implemented several BMPs, including 182 acres of vegetative riparian buffers, more than 17,000 square feet of heavy-use area protection, 10 onsite wastewater treatment systems, 12 alternative water source units (Figure 2), five structures for water control, and 104,000 feet of fencing that excluded 675 cattle and 42 horses from streams in the watershed. In addition, one constructed wetland was built to alleviate issues associated with a failing septic system. To encourage additional members of the community to install and use BMPs, project partners hosted field days and farm tours on properties where BMPs had been installed. At each farm site the landowner explained the BMPs and their added benefits for the farming operation, including improved herd health and better grazing management. Overall, 11 agricultural landowners (covering 13 farms) and 10 landowners with septic repair issues participated in the project.

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Water quality has improved as a result of the restoration efforts in the watershed. Based upon an assessment in the year following implementation of the project, two (CW-005 and CW-006) of the eleven sites now meet South Carolina's water quality standards for fecal coliform (Table 1). At site CW-005, all water samples collected after December 2008 (when the active implementation effort ended) meet the water quality standard. Similarly, the most recent water samples collected for site CW-006 also meet the standard.

Data also show that fecal coliform levels at seven of the remaining Fishing Creek monitoring sites have declined (but do not yet meet standards), indicating that progress is being made.

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Partners and Funding

The project was supported by $383,498 in EPA CWA section 319 funding and a non-federal match of $256,000 provided by landowners and other project partners. Participating partners included SCDHEC; Research Planning, Inc.; the conservation district, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Cattleman's Associations of Chester and York counties; Clemson University Extension; York County Engineering; and local residents.

Table 1. Fecal coliform data for CW-005 and CW-006* from 2002, 2007 and 2009 (bold values show fecal coliform levels that exceeded the water quality standard)
Date Fecal Coliform Bacteria (cfu/100 mL)
Site CW-005 Site CW-006
January 2002 8000 1900
February 2002 860 780
March 2002 90 450
April 2002   300
May 2002 840 900
June 2002 60 740
July 2002 250 120
August 2002   180
September 2002   460
October 2002 130 520
November 2002 3200 3700
December 2002 320 340
January 2007 220 170
February 2007 390 160
March 2007 97 90
April 2007 120 150
May 2007 82 41
June 2007 3100 52
July 2007 500 200
August 2007 110 40
January 2009 310 *N/A
February 2009 270 
March 2009 360 
April 2009 110 
May 2009 160 
June 2009 180 
July 2009 260 
August 2009 270 
September 2009 400 
October 2009 370 
November 2009 140 
December 2009 150 
*Data beyond 2007 are not available for CW-006.

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