WINNSBORO — U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologist Jim Landmeyer has been following the Town of Winnsboro’s search for sustainable water through the local press and offered a possible solution at Tuesday’s regular scheduled council meeting.
Landmeyer works in Columbia at the Water Science Center, which is a science-based non-regulatory bureau of the Department of Interior.
One of the company’s missions is to help state and local water managers with issues regarding water supplies and water quality.
“One of the things we do is look at ground water and surface water and I’ve been following the great dilemma that you folks are up against,” Landmeyer told council. “How do you grow if you’ve been told you don’t have available water resources?”
The USGS does not own land, cannot tell entities what to do or levy fines, but simply collects data.
With hot summer days on the horizon, Landmeyer advised council that they could see a drop in water level at the reservoir.
Landmeyer noted that a groundwater assessment has never been done in Fairfield County.
“Right now if somebody with an industry came in and asked how much groundwater do you have, you would only know how much you have in your reservoir and it would be nice to know you have groundwater in your back pocket,” he said.
The only geological map in this area, which was looking for minerals, was done in 1970.
“I don’t think this option (USGS water availability study) has even been considered,” Landmeyer stated. “The USGS has been around since 1879 and we have every document and I did a quick scan of what has been done in this area. There is nothing right now that you guys (town council) could go pull of the shelf and say well lets not do groundwater.”
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has not done a water assessment in the area either.
Landmeyer noted there are a number of private wells in the county and believes there is groundwater available.
Following a groundwater availability study, Landmeyer was hopeful that the town could install four production wells pumping 200 to 300 gallons per minute to produce one million gallons per day.
Landmeyer pointed out that Winnsboro is sitting on a rock system but specified since mining has stopped at Winnsboro Granite, the quarry has filled up with water.
“Part of it is rainfall, but even when they were mining they’d be running into the water table,” he noted. “Now that pumpage has stopped and a good bit of that water is the water table and Mr. Mayor that is water that is just sitting there.”
Water from the rock quarry would still have to be treated with at least chlorine.
According to Landmeyer, nine times out of 10, municipalities like to go to groundwater whether it is through rock or sand because it needs less treatment.
Mayor Roger Gaddy inquired about the time frame and cost of a USGS water study.
“A water availability study can take anywhere from two to three years and cost approximately $200,000,” Landmeyer responded.
USGS staff would need one year to collect the data, one year to analyze the data and then time to submit the report. Landmeyer stated that the USGS could provide up to a 30 percent match, leaving a bill of approximately $140,000 to the town.
Landmeyer advised council that the USGS could bring some federal funds to the table.
“This (helping local utilities and their planning for water) is something that the federal government is mandated to do through Congress,” he noted.
Through the course of the study, the USGS would drill wells with their own drill crew and if a test well is productive it could be turned into a production well after the study.
“We certainly appreciate you taking the initiative and letting us know what is available,” Gaddy told Landmeyer. “This is a problem we’ve been dealing with for several years and it will probably be ongoing.”
The USGS recently finished a study for groundwater availability in Chesterfield County, where they were under the same type of concerns and were questioning if they had enough sustainable water to attract industry.
The Chesterfield study was funded through world development grants by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Landmeyer said he would like council to consider a USGS water study as an option moving forward.
“If you remember anything about tonight remember that even though you’re sitting in fractured rock you do have an ample and unaccessed source of water,” he stated. “This is a rich resource that is out there and right now it is just the pioneer days.”