Water Law

SC River Map - Source: SCDNR, SC State Water Assessment (2nd ed. 2009)
Source: SCDNR, SC State Water Assessment (2nd ed. 2009)

Water is one of South Carolina’s most precious resources. It sustains our citizens, cities and towns through public drinking water supply. Adequate water availability is essential to the operations of many businesses, such as the beverage and food, textile, chemical, electric utility, and semi-conductor/microchip industries. And South Carolina’s rivers, lakes and coastal waterways affords citizens and tourists alike with recreational opportunities. According to a survey conducted by ITT, 95% of Americans value water over any other service they receive. Businesses and industries rank the value of water second only to electricity. Although South Carolina has long been perceived as a water-rich State, we are not immune from water risk and uncertainty. According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, South Carolina water managers expect water shortages in some portion of the State under average conditions in the next ten years. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there is approximately a one in four chance of a drought occurring somewhere in South Carolina at any time.

Additionally, problems with competing water uses may become a reality in South Carolina. Recent controversies over water use show that this problem is emerging and real: South Carolina’s costly but ultimately settled dispute with North Carolina over the Catawba-Wateree River; simmering disputes between Georgia and South Carolina groundwater users concerning over-use of the Upper Floridan Aquifer; outcry in the Edisto River Basin over large water withdrawals for an agribusiness operation; recently settled litigation in the Upstate between municipal water and sewer utilities concerning adverse impacts of water withdrawals from the Middle Tyger River; and protracted conflict, recently resolved, concerning the impact of reservoir operations on the Catawba-Wateree River upon the endangered Shortnose sturgeon. Enacted in 2010, the South Carolina Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use and Reporting Act is untested in the context of new water users seeking a withdrawal permit. The State of South Carolina is in the midst of planning to revise its State Water Plan to include for the first time hydrological modelling for each river basin in the State.

Mullen Taylor is the only South Carolina attorney recognized by her peers as one of the Best Lawyers in America in the practice of water law. She is ready to navigate clients through the complicated world of water resource law, from advising clients of water issues affecting them, including water rights, water risk assessment, water risk disclosure pursuant to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requirements, navigability, and water withdrawal permitting; to litigating water issues if need be. Large and small businesses, the federal government, municipal utilities, non-profit organizations, and individual property owners have benefited from Mullen’s knowledge and counsel.