Cal Sawyer: Water Quality

I am Cal Sawyer and I am an assistant professor in the department of Biosystems Engineering and the associate director of the Center for Watershed Excellence at Clemson University.

Storm water is the focus of much of our research and education programs because it is such a big problem, but also because it can be difficult to address unless we understand where it comes from and what we can do to treat it.

Traditionally the focus of water quality protection has been on point sources of pollution and these represent direct discharges from factories, municipal wastewater treatment facilities and industry.

In the thirty-five years since the passage of the Clean Water Act, those have largely been addressed. That has caused a shift in focus in water-quality protection from point sources to non-point sources; which is essentially a fancy term for polluted run-off or storm water.

This type of polluted run-off is created when rainfall hits the ground and washes over the surface of the ground and picks up all sorts of diffuse pollutants along the way; such as bacteria from pets and livestock, oils leaked from cars, fertilizers from lawns and from the agriculture industry.

Our extension and education programs help our elected and appointed officials understand the impacts that their decisions make on water quality and water quantity.

We try to demonstrate effective ways for homeowners to capture storm water on their property and reuse it for beneficial purposes.

One program that we have certifies construction site inspectors that have a footprint on virtually every construction project greater than an acre around the state. In general we are trying to increase awareness of storm water pollution that will result in locally improved water quality.