Southeast
Petracca/Staff

SC - A complex threat touches southern SC coast: underground saltwater

On a winding road nestled inside one of this barrier island’s gated communities, past a bay of idle lawnmowers that trim manicured golf courses, sits a cutting edge piece of technology.

HILTON HEAD — On a winding road nestled inside one of this barrier island’s gated communities, past a bay of idle lawnmowers that trim manicured golf courses, sits a cutting edge piece of technology.

To look at it, you might just see a pipe mounted parallel to a concrete pad, painted a faded blue with a motor at the end. But it’s actually a complex piece of machinery that helps ensure thousands of customers on the island’s north end will have water to drink year-round.

This well is just one way in which officials on Hilton Head have adapted to a difficult situation: the intrusion of salt into the aquifer under the island. If a supply is tainted with just 1 percent seawater, it makes typically pristine reserves mostly unusable.

So the machinery injects up to 260 million gallons of treated water from the Savannah River underground, during the winter months when water demand on Hilton Head is low. Then, this water is slowly withdrawn in Hilton Head’s hotter months, when irrigation of yards and gardens sends demand soaring.

Read more.