South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt says the state's rural counties need water and sewer improvements if they are to attract businesses with high-paying jobs.
The state's water resources, or the lack of them, were the topic of the two-day South Carolina Water Resources Conference sponsored by Clemson and its Center for Watershed Excellence. The sessions wrapped up in Columbia on Thursday.
During the conference's opening day, Hitt said that water and sewer improvements are needed in 37 of the state's 46 counties to help attract industry.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that last year, the department assisted 39 mostly rural communities with $16.3 million in Community Development Block Grant Funds. The department said that the funds not only help attract business but that the water and sewer improvements are important for public health.
Hitt said that the money is important in making improvements in some areas that have not seen good-paying jobs in centuries.
There was also discussion of regional demands for water from such sources as the Savannah River and the aquifer that serves both Hilton Head and Savannah, Ga.
South Carolina members of the Savannah River Committee said recently they are preparing a proposal for Georgia to reduce its withdrawals from the aquifer. The committee, established six years ago by the governors of both states, includes members from the two states.
As there is more demand on the aquifer, the water levels drop and saltwater from the ocean can seep in to the underground formations that hold the water.
The water resources meeting that attracted about 300 people was held as South Carolina heads into another dry fall season after last winter was one of the driest on record. That brought drought conditions that gripped much of the state through late summer.
Those conditions have eased in recent weeks, but October and November are the driest times of the year.
As of two weeks ago, 12 counties in the northwestern corner of the state were considered to be in a moderate drought. The middle section of the state is in an incipient drought while conditions along the coast and in the Pee Dee are considered normal.