Saltwater intrusion into the Floridan aquifer in the Savannah area threatens the continued viability of the region’s primary drinking water supply source. Chatham County and the southern portion of Effingham County (south of GA Hwy 119) were identified in the 2006 Coastal Georgia Water and Wastewater Permitting Plan for Managing Salt Water Intrusion as having the highest vulnerability for the groundwater cone of depression that extends into South Carolina, where saltwater intrusion has already occurred. This region, classified as the “Red Zone,” recently experienced significant reductions to their groundwater withdrawal permit limits. In general, most 2015 permit limits for Red Zone users were reduced by 22% for 2025.
The water suppliers and users within Chatham County have been very successful in achieving significant groundwater withdrawal reductions over the past quarter-century. In order to address water management concerns and the threat of saltwater intrusion, Chatham County and all the jurisdictions within the County, as well as large industrial and golf course users, collaborated to develop the Comprehensive Water Supply Management Plan in 1995 (hereinafter referred to as the Chatham County Plan). The Chatham County Plan was updated in 2000 and most recently in 2006. The 2000 Plan identified 16 strategies to address how the community might go about reducing groundwater withdrawals, and the list was expanded to 28 strategies in the 2006 Plan.
As a result of the success of the previous planning efforts, a similar planning process, which includes a coordinated effort of the water withdrawal permittees, was initiated for the Red Zone. This plan, the Red Zone Water Supply Management Plan, serves to revisit and update the Chatham County Plan and the most recent management strategies. It also addresses water supply sustainability issues and expands the geographic boundary of the original Chatham County Plan to include the entire Red Zone.
The Task Force working on the Plan's development added new strategies specific to the Red Zone and its current needs and issues. The new list includes 43 specific strategies under the following 10 water supply management strategy categories:
- Plan Adoption
- Data Management & Evaluation
- Planning / Master Planning
- Irrigation Conservation
- Water Reclamation
- Water Rate Structures
- Water Conservation (General/Incentives)
- Stormwater Capture & Reuse
- Water Quality Protection
- Legislative Action
In order to preserve and protect the long-term viability of the Floridan aquifer as a source of potable water for residential and industrial use in Chatham and Effingham counties, groundwater users of the Floridan aquifer system should continue working together to solve water supply issues. It is also important to start planning for redundancy of water sources for when the Floridan aquifer in this area becomes impacted by saltwater intrusion. Water supply management strategies identified in Chapter 4 can reduce groundwater usage from the Floridan aquifer to extend the lifetime of this inexpensive and high-quality water source. Through implementation of the strategies outlined in this plan over the next decade, the potential reduction of groundwater pumping from the Floridan aquifer is about 10 MGD. This value was calculated by estimating the impact of the strategies presented and accounting for the projected population increase during this period.
You can access the Red Zone Water Supply Management Plan here as well as the Presentation made to area Elected Officials and Planning Agencies.