Ecologically and economically, there are few natural resources as critical as water. In South Carolina alone, annual consumptive use of surface water can exceed 300 billion gallons for purposes as diverse as drinking water supplies, mining, agricultural irrigation, and industrial process use. See 2016 Reported Water Use—South Carolina, https://www.dhec.sc.gov/environment/water-quality/groundwater-use-reporting. As with many states, South Carolina’s population continues to increase and new industries move into the state with new demands for water on a seemingly daily basis. This increased demand has led to concerns about how our water resources are allocated and regulated. Surface water withdrawals in particular have come under heightened public scrutiny, stemming from a new law passed by the South Carolina state legislature in 2010 and the subsequent arrival within the state of several large-scale agricultural withdrawers. The most recent volley in the ongoing debate resulted in not one but two separate opinions issued from the South Carolina Supreme Court in an 11-month span upholding the current regulatory framework for surface water withdrawals.
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