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Sustainable Midlands: Helping to Keep Our Water Safe

Apr 29, 2019 10:02PM ● By Odell Williams

Sustainable Midlands is a grassroots nonprofit organization with a big picture vision that incorporates on-the-ground action. The perspective includes fresh food, multi-modal transportation, a vibrant local economy, and healthy waterways. It is this work to support healthy waterways that oftentimes ties the work together. To help protect the integrity of our urban waterways, Sustainable Midlands participates in Clemson's Adopt-A-Stream and convenes both the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance and the Smith Branch Watershed Alliance.

    The Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance was formed as a project of Sustainable Midlands guided by a steering committee comprised of stakeholders representing the community. The alliance is comprised of the following stakeholders: the University of South Carolina (USC), the city of Columbia, Richland County, S.C. DHEC, Congaree Riverkeeper, and the Gills Creek Watershed Association. It is a movement that unifies concerned residents, businesses, governments and organizations to restore water quality, properly manage flooding, and care for related natural resources. The alliance also encourages responsible development of adjacent land, such as the Five Points area and the USC campus.

    The goals of the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance are to develop cost-effective solutions to the devastating flooding experienced in the past; improve water quality; restore habitat for native wildlife and plants; and to plan a greenway from Five Points to the Granby Riverwalk.

    The Smith Branch Watershed Alliance was formed in 2013 to create plans to address immediate and long-term issues facing the Smith Branch watershed in the northern part of Columbia. The alliance is eager to work in concert with future development in the area, including the Bull Street State Hospital redevelopment project, to ensure an overall plan for the Smith Branch to become a community asset. The watershed area, which originates near the hospital site, stretches across Columbia’s North Main Street neighborhoods and empties into the Broad River, just north of the Columbia Canal.

    The years of work accomplished in these alliances is currently paying off. The city of Columbia has currently identified funding and started capital improvement projects to restore the health and ecology of these creeks. Some of this work is underway and can be seen in the Bull Street Development where a section of Smith Branch that had been buried for more than a hundred years is now seeing daylight. The city’s commitment to restoring our creeks is enhanced by Richland County’s commitment to enhancing our parks and greenways.  The Penny Tax Program is an initiative created and designed to fund greenways within our local communities. Sustainable Midlands’ partners in city and county planning offices are doing their part to support a healthy river system that functions to reduce flooding in our communities while also providing recreational opportunities for local residents. It is the citizens, however, that will ensure that the best of these plans becomes reality. If you would like to lend your hand and heart toward these projects, Sustainable Midlands encourages you to do so.

    The month of May is recognized as National Water Safety Month. As such, everyone in the Midlands is encouraged to help support and protect our valuable water resources by getting personally involved in some way. Two direct ways to get involved are participating in the adopt-a-stream water-quality monitoring program and attending a watershed alliance meeting or action. Together we can make a difference.

For more information, call 803-470-4302, email [email protected] or visit

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