It’s been 25 and a half months since the state of South Carolina filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court against North Carolina over the amount of water being drawn out of the Catawba River. The case is currently in a state of limbo until the nation’s highest court decides on the question of intervenors who want to join in he case. Duke energy, the city of Charlotte and the Catawba River Water Supply Company want to join on the side of the defendant North Carolina. South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has argued that adding the intervenors with their separate arguments will only prolong the case and that the states can argue for all entities within its respective borders. McMaster says he hopes to hear From the Supreme Court later this month concerning a decision on the question of the intervenors in order to move the case along.
“If they take these three parties out then that will clear the way for us finally to get down to the real issues and finally present that to the special judge who will be accumulating evidence,” says McMaster. “The special judge will then, based on the evidence, make a recommendation to the U.S. Supreme court to decide the case.”
McMaster says eventually when the case is heard, a number of experts are set to offer their testimony on how the daily permanent withdrawal of tens of millions of gallons of water from the Catawba River by the state of North Carolina would adversely affect business and industry and overall quality of life of the citizens of South Carolina served by the river.
McMaster says the law states that the water from rivers belongs to the states in which it flows and that is the basis for South Carolina’s case against its neighbors to the north. “Our point is that North Carolina cannot treat that as simply their water. Their position so far is that they can do what ever they want with it without any input at all from us (the state of South Carolina). Of course, that will have an enormous effect on our industry, our manufacturing, our business, recreation, agriculture, out culture–everything involved in this state. We must protect that.”
McMaster says this case is important to the future of the state of South Carolina and will set an important precedent concerning how future disagreements over water rites are decided as the states in the Southeast especially continue to grow in population and industry volume that will most definitely increase the demand for water. McMaster says in several areas, it is already occurring.
“If North Carolina can do what ever they want with water out of the Catawba, then they can do that to the Broad, the Yadkin that flows into the Pee Dee and everything else,” says McMaster. “If North Carolina is allowed to do it then Georgia can do it as well on the Savannah where we’re already having problems over there with water. We know Atlanta’s thirsty and they’re looking at the Savannah River. We know that the city of Savannah is so thirsty that they’re pumping the water out of the ground so much that the wells at Edisto Beach, Hilton Head and at Parris Island and all are starting to be intruded with salt water from the ocean.”