Originally created 07/05/99

Water demand doubled since 1993



GRANITEVILLE -- Breezy Hill is booming.

New subdivisions, especially in the Ascauga Lake area and industrial growth linked to Sage Mill, have made the Graniteville community a hot spot in the last decade.

That kind of growth means the Breezy Hill Water and Sewer Co., managed by Charles Hilton, will have to make sure water resources are adequate to serve the growing demand on the Breezy Hill Water District.

Mr. Hilton says he needs to know what water resources lie between the layer of granite that gives the region its name and ground zero so he can plan not only for the future but for how to best to supply the current needs of his section of Aiken County.

"Water is fast becoming our most precious commodity, and we need to have answers to our questions about its long-term availability," he said.

He is confident that a study by the U.S. Geological Survey now under way will provide much of the information district officials will need for making decisions necessary to keep the water flowing to Breezy Hill customers.

Geological Survey staff members are mapping ground water levels by performing a simple test to measure the depth of the water in wells serving Breezy Hill customers.

"We just place a clean electric or steel tape down a well to record the level of the ground water below the surface of the land," said hydrologist Larry Harrelson. "It takes less than 15 minutes to do it."

The information derived from Mr. Harrelson's testing will be used in conjunction with data from a previous study done by the Geological Survey a year ago that determined the location of the bottom depth of the water table.

Data derived from the two studies will give Mr. Hilton and his board of directors much needed information on exactly what Breezy Hill's water resources are.

The $170,000 investigation was funded through a cooperative federal, state and local program with the help of state Sen. Tommy Moore, Mr. Hilton said.

Nearly $30,000 comes from the local government division of the S.C. Budget and Control Board to provide assistance for the water district which, in effect, serves as a resource for the industrial growth of the whole county, Mr. Moore said. Breezy Hill provided another $49,000 and the federal grant covered the rest of the cost of the study.

"The Breezy Hill Water District was mainly in the business of supplying water to residential customers but with Avondale expansion and the growth of Sage Mill, it was called on to do more," Mr. Moore said.

Since 1993, the demand for service has doubled, according to Mr. Hilton.

It takes 300,000 gallons of water annually just to serve Sage Mill, the county-owned industrial park on Bettis Academy Road. Homes in new subdivisions require an average of about 8,500 gallons per month on an annual basis and can use as many as 12,000 gallons during a hot, dry summer. The peak average 20 years ago during the same summer conditions was 4,000 gallons less per residence.

"There is not sufficient water in the ground to sustain Sage Mill and commercial and residential growth," Mr. Hilton said.

For that reason alone, the Breezy Hill Water Co. purchases from 500,000 to 750,000 gallons a day from North Augusta as well as additional water from Edgefield County, which is a minor partner in Sage Mill.

North Augusta, now undergoing expansion of its water system, expects to have no problem in pumping additional water for sale to Breezy Hill, says City Administrator Charles Martin.

Despite some recent suggestions that the U.S. Corps of Engineers might cease operations at the Lock and Dam on the Savannah River and create problems for North Augusta's water pool, Mr. Martin anticipates no long- or short-term diminishment in the city's ability to meet its own needs and those of its customers.

"We foresee no problems now or in the future," Mr. Martin said.

In the meantime, the study is expected to produce the information Mr. Hilton needs to plan strategy to meet increasing demands for water in the district.

"The standard question is `why don't you just dig more wells.' That might not be a solution," Mr. Hilton said. "There's a possibility that more wells could compound the problem."

Mr. Hilton and his board of directors may be closer to finding out when the present study has been completed.

"It will contain purely unbiased data, quality, well-documented information," Mr. Harrelson said. "We're not consultants, so we don't make judgments but we give him scientific data and leave the judgment up to him."

Pat Willis covers North Augusta, Horse Creek Valley and Edgefield County. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.