Some say water woes now in God’s hands; 300 days of water use left in Hartwell Lake

10 11 2008

 

— Anyone who drives over Hartwell Lake knows that the water level is going down, not coming back up.

Experts say if meaningful rainfall does not occur soon, the lake level could fall below the only functioning intake for the Anderson water district by as early as next fall.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the current lake level is 639.58 above mean sea level. This is lower than the previous record low of 642.4 feet set during the drought of 1981. By comparison, historic winter lake levels average roughly 657 feet, 15 feet higher than the current level, according to Corps records.

If sufficient rainfall does not occur soon, Hartwell Lake could drop to 634 feet by January 1, 2009, according to Corps projections.

Steve Wilson, manager of the Anderson Regional Joint Water System, said water cannot be taken from Hartwell Lake through the only remaining submerged intake pipe for the water system if water levels recede to 620 feet. At the current rate of water usage, that low level would occur late next summer or early fall, Wilson said.

“I would estimate that we have maybe 300 days of available water left in the lake. No one knows for sure,” Wilson said. “Conservation methods have been successful and have increased the life of the existing water supply, but more needs to be done to insure the continued supply of clean, useable water from the lake.”

City officials in the towns of Central, Clemson and Pendleton said their citizens are conserving water and meeting the 20 percent reduction levels required by drought management regulations. The question now is whether that is sufficient conservation.

Currently, the Corps releases 3,600 cubic feet of water per second to supply electrical generation needs and keep federally mandated flows moving downstream, according to the Corps Web site. Reductions in this amount have been discussed and suggested by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division along with various water resource and conservation groups in the area.

Virgil Hobbs, Hartwell Project Operations Manager, said the Corps is working on an environmental assessment that could cut releases to 3,100 cubic feet per second by Nov. 22. This could mean that approximately 323 million more gallons per day would be retained in the lake through the release reduction, Hobbs said.

“Both Georgia and South Carolina state environmental protection departments have recommended reduction in flow releases to the 3,100 cfs rate for this winter,” Hobbs said. “They are both fully aware of the water crisis situation at Hartwell Lake.

“When people notice the generators running at the dam they think that we are only releasing water to provide saleable electricity. Actually, we are currently purchasing power from other generating sources for use in the area we serve. Over the past year that amounts to about $60 million in off-system power purchases. We continue to generate some power during water releases, but that is because it is the most efficient manner to discharge the water.”

Read on here.

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