Sea levels rise to raise groundwater levels and problems

study of impacts to underground infrastructure get NOAA grant

Impacts of sea-level rise can be observed along South Carolina’s coastline. However, much is unknown about the impacts underground. The risks and threats to groundwater, a source for drinking water and agricultural irrigation, can cause problems for water supply reliability and drainage.

The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, a multidisciplinary team of scientists, and Beaufort County are identifying the impacts with a two-year, nearly $300K grant from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate Program Office.

Scientists will analyze relationships between sea-level rise and groundwater, revealing unknown observations and aiming to lessen both impacts and potential ones like groundwater contamination. Sea level rise can lead to saltwater intrusion.

Beaufort County Planning and Zoning director, Robert Merchant wants to use this information to understand and better plan mitigation strategies.

Known for its low elevation, the Lowcountry is already experiencing issues. Impacted areas will be about 15 shallow groundwater wells in areas of Alljoy, Mossy Oaks, Shell Point and St. Helena that will be monitored. Water level measurements will be taken every three months and inform a model of the projected impacts of sea level rise on groundwater conditions and infrastructure.

Below the surface infrastructure like septic tanks and electrical lines is being considered as well. Septic tank failure can lead to sewage leaks into nearby rivers or creeks.

In addition, scientists will monitor tide cycles, rainfall, storm events and drought. Social scientists will speak with communities.