Bryan County’s first Water Task Force has become a reality.
Bryan County’s Board of Commissioners voted to create the task force at its Nov. 19 meeting, the same night the Richmond Hill City Council also signed up to take part.
Pembroke’s City Council will vote on whether to join in at its December meeting, Mayor Mary Warnell said.
The task force will consist at first of County Administrator Ray Pittman, County Commissioner Carter Infinger and representatives from both cities.
It was one of a number of goals raised at a countywide planning retreat in September as officials discussed the need to insure the county continues to have adequate drinking water.
“We created a wish list and goals for Bryan County to achieve over the next five years,” Pittman said. “One of those goals was creating a continuous and uninterrupted supply of potable water for our future growth.”
He said the task force is “designed to create a road map to assess what we have and how to create a comprehensive water authority to serve all of the potential development within Bryan County, to include both the city of Pembroke and the city of Richmond Hill.”
Booming population growth along the Southeast coast has led to increasing pressure on the Floridan Aquifer, the source of drinking water for millions in several southern states, including Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, which in turn has led to saltwater intrusion into the aquifer in areas such as Hilton Head and Brunswick.
Though the problem of saltwater intrusion is not new and has been a subject of concern in the area since at least the mid-1990s, the state’s Environmental Protection Division has done little to reduce pressure on the aquifer.
But there are signs that’s about to change, some officials say.
“I’ve had several meetings with the EPD over the last several months and it is a big deal,” said Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler. “They want to cut the amount of gallons we’re now allowed to pump. They want to cut that percentage down. And along with that, they want us to look at finding alternative ways of getting water supplies.”
Warnell said Pembroke currently has adequate water, but that’s it.
“We’re OK now for now,” she said. “If we have growth, we’re not OK.”
The task force will look at everything from conservation to connection fees to gaining political support and looking into reservoirs for possible water supplies.
The task force will set its own timetable for action, Pittman said, but called water “one of Bryan County’s most significant” issues.