Dan Hitchcock, Ph.D., P.E. - Research & Projects

Coastal Development and Nonpoint Source Pollution in South Carolina: A Systems Approach to Managing Water Resources


The assessment of potential water quality and quantity impacts in coastal areas due to existing and future land use change is being explored, specifically related to the conversion of forests to urbanized areas. My research focuses on linking land use and water resource management practices to water quantity and quality impacts. Investigations are occurring at three levels of scale for land use practices and water resources management in coastal South Carolina: (1) the individual stormwater management practice (BMP), (2) the development tract, and (3) the watershed scale.

The overarching proposed research questions are as follows:

  • How effective are certain practices for water resource management and water quality improvement between upland area land uses (e.g., residential and commercial development, golf courses, etc.) and downstream water resources (e.g., creeks, ponds, rivers, lakes, estuaries) in the South Carolina lower coastal plain areas with shallow water tables?
  • Can a watershed monitoring and modeling approach be used to determine effectiveness and water quality improvement based on pre- and post-development in a coastal watershed?

The proposed research program will increase the knowledge base in understanding the impact of land uses and coastal water resource management on water quantity and quality. Knowledge about aspects of watershed science and assessment will also be gained. Results of this research will quantitatively answer questions posed by various stakeholders, including policy and decision makers, developers, landscape architects, public works and planning staff and officials, and the public about options for water management strategies. Research efforts will focus on watersheds in the SC coastal plain. Three project objectives are as follows:

  1. Evaluate efficacy of water resource management practices (BMPs) in coastal areas with shallow water tables and compare this efficacy with reported values and model predictions toward achieving pre-development hydrology and water quality.
  2. Establish a comprehensive water quantity and quality monitoring program in coastal watersheds to characterize changes in receiving water quality and quantity as a function of land use change and water management strategies.
  3. Collaborate with existing outreach programs to ensure that knowledge learned in this research is translated to the general public who have questions regarding coastal development, nonpoint source pollution, stormwater management practice selection and performance, and sustainable land use and development strategies.

This research is based on both ecological and engineering principles and is focused on the investigation of innovative development strategies and stormwater management practices for land use change in coastal areas of South Carolina that are typified by shallow water tables.


“Coastal Stormwater Management Practice Demonstration Project”, Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) distributed by Clemson PSA in partnership with Clemson’s Carolina Clear program with Katie Giacalone (2009).

“Developing Minimal Allowable Freshwater Flow Recommendations in the Great Pee Dee Watershed”, Pee Dee Research Endowment with Dr. Dara Park and Dr. Anand Jayakaran (2009-2013).

“Bannockburn Plantation Environmental Sensor Network”, Clemson PSA with multiple collaborators (2007-2008).

“Storm Hydrograph Separation Analysis for Paired Coastal Watersheds:  An Assessment of Pre-development Site Conditions”, National Sea Grant Office administered by SC Sea Grant in cooperation with the College of Charleston (2008-2010).

“Dissemination and Deployment of a Web-Based Tool to Support Natural Resource-Based Planning at the Local Level:  SCNEMO”, Cooperative Institute of Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) grant administered by University of Connecticut in cooperation with SC Sea Grant (2007-2009).

“Watershed Characterization and TMDL Implementation for Chapel Branch Creek”, USEPA Section 319 grant administered by SCDHEC in cooperation with USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (2006-2009).