Posted by Doreen Higgins on May 02, 2019
Ron Medders of Utilities Inc. gave us a detailed interesting presentation of water supplies, issues, and problems, present and future, for our island on Wednesday morning. Ron is a Georgian born and bred and began his “water career” twenty-nine years ago in Baxley, Ga. He came to Utilities Inc. in 2007 and in 2011 became the regional manager for Ga operations. He has been involved with all the complexities of water usage and management in our area for close on ten years.
 
First Ron showed us where our water comes from. Beneath us there are aquifers which store water and we derive our water by pumping from them. This simple statement covers and includes the vast complexity of our water supply. It addresses water quality (can you drink it?), adequacy of supply, future needs and availability so that we have enough today and there will be sufficient available tomorrow. Beneath us, in the ground below the southeast coast area of the Georgia Coastal plain, there are several aquifers at varying depths. There are two that concern us today and into the immediate future. The Surficial aquifer is nearest to the surface at 35’ to 65’ down and it serves us for irrigation; it is not drinkable. The other is the Upper Floridan aquifer at 400’-700’ down, which gives us drinking water. There are three other aquifers down there, at greater depths and not currently tapped for any purpose.

The problems with the two aquifers we currently use are evident from the monitoring wells of the US Geological Study. The problems are, encroachment from salt water and a diminishing water supply. The causes of these are increasing population causing more water usage, and the increased withdrawal in turn causing increased salt water intrusion, plus some drought years. Overpumping in the Hilton Head area is causing seawater to flow towards Savannah, and there is an upward swell of salty water in the Brunswick area.

Beginning in 1997 the State of Georgia has paid attention to these problems with a series of plans and requirements culminating in 2009 with a mandated return to 2004 actual withdrawals and many public meetings since that time. Response by the Environmental Protection Administration to these issues has been substantial and detailed, including a review of all withdrawal permits, attention to conservation, water loss and waste water reuse. The Administration designated Effingham/Chatham/ Bryan counties as the Northern Region entity and specified very strict requirements to promote conservation, reuse feasibility, meter calibration and repair, and water loss control.

On Skidaway Island, Utilities Inc. provides our drinking water sourced from the Upper Floridan Aquifer. The TLA uses water for irrigation of common property and the TLC uses water for the irrigation of its golf courses and other facilities. Ron showed charts of water consumption over time, and individual consumption has declined somewhat. The national average water consumption in the US is 150 gallons per day; on Skidaway in 2018 67% of households used <150 gallons. The TLA has a Strategic Water Committee representing its interests, with attention given to two policy directions: the pursuit of alternative sources, such as waste water treatment, pumping one of the lower aquifers not now in use, and sourcing water from the City of Savannah. TLA suggests attention to the many households who pump water from the Surficial aquifer via shallow wells. TLC itself uses water collected in our fresh water lagoons from rainfall, deep wells and shallow wells.

To date, conservation efforts for conservation have focused on the concept of higher rates for above average usage, irrigation improvements, and educational/awareness projects to ensure Skidaway residents are aware that there is a problem. Ron ended his presentation with assurances that the problem is being addressed. We thanked him for his very detailed discussion; we are now clear that there is a close and serious matter to be addressed very carefully.
 
Below is a photo of  Ron Medders and President Andy