When talking to Charleston locals, you might hear frequent mention of the Lowcountry...a cultural region along the South Carolina coast that's known for its food, historic communities, and, mostly, its utterly appealing natural waterways.
Charlestonians cherish their waters in a way many landlocked dwellers might not understand. It isn't just freshly caught freshly caught shrimp and crab that residents have an appetite for; they also have a particular fondness for the creeks and rivers their region grants them access to.
The waters of Charleston bring an palpable vibrance to the local culture. One of the main attractions is Shrem Creek. On any given weekend the creek is stacked with boaters - with either a fishing rod or a glass of wine in hand. People pack the docks, restaurants, and residences along the shore. This is a true glimpse into Charleston life; and a mere example of why water conservation and safety is key.
Nine years ago, the Charleston branch of the nationally-funded Waterkeeper Alliance started monitoring not only Shem Creek, but also many other areas in the region, after recognizing that these beloved waterfronts provided not only recreational opportunities, but also helped sustain jobs that are important to the community.
The Waterkeeper Alliance unites a global network of over 350 groups protecting over 2.75 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways on six continents. The organization aims to protect the waterways we have access to. They take on the task of identifying and defending pollutants, organizing cleaning initiatives, and overall keeping our waters clean.
The Charleston Waterkeepers extension sends their team out to Shem Creek and other regional areas weekly to quality-test the waters, in the interest of informing the public of safety measures needed to be taken. If any water test comes back icky, the public is the first to know.
"This is just such a special place, and we have a right to go fishing and swimming, paddling...whatever it is that you like to do," says Charleston Waterkeepers' Executive director, Andrew Wunderley. "We have a right to take part in those activities without pollution or getting sick."
And that is the entire point: to keep Charleston swimming.
For ideas of waterfront activities - from waterside dining to fishing, paddleboarding, and boat rental - check in on the Charleston Visitors Bureau website.