Spartanburg Water owns the property in fee simple title to the 827 MSL contour on Lake Bowen, 720 MSL contour on Lake Blalock and the 780 MSL contour for Municipal Reservoir Number 1. Any activities by adjoining property owners on Spartanburg Water property requires permission through the established permit process.
Click on the questions below to see the answers:
- What is Spartanburg Water’s legal right to the property around the lake?
- Why is Spartanburg Water changing all the rules?
While it may seem like there are many changes going on, there have been very few changes in the Lake Policies and Procedures. Spartanburg Water is enforcing the current requirements and providing guidance for implementation on others. Spartanburg Water wants to protect our drinking water and ensure a safe atmosphere for recreation.
- Why doesn’t Spartanburg Water communicate all the changes that are being made?
Spartanburg Water has communicated rule changes through our bi-monthly newsletter, Healthy Lakes, and we post information here. We would like our stakeholders and lakeside residents to sign up for alerts that can be sent directly to their email or as a text. Please go to here to sign up.
If you have not received issues of our newsletter, please send us an email at email@example.com to add you to our mailing list. We will post and answer all questions we receive on the Our Lakes portion of our website.
- How do all these changes affect water quality?
The primary focus of Spartanburg Water is to protect the quality of the community’s drinking water supply and maintain the safety of those who enjoy recreational activities in and around the lakes.
Spartanburg Water strives for the highest quality drinking water possible, keeping it safe to drink, ensuring high-quality taste, and keeping treatment and distribution costs low at the plant and throughout delivery.
- Why can’t I have a fire ring?
Fires rings are not allowed on Spartanburg Water property to prevent the potential for a wildfire. Spartanburg Water does encourage all homeowners who maintain a fire ring on their own property to follow the SC Forestry Commission Red Flag Fire Alerts. A Red Flag Fire Alert is a wildfire danger warning issued by the SC Forestry Commission. The Red Flag Alert cautions that wildfire danger is increasing, and outdoor burning could become difficult to control.
- Why do I need to plant bushes along my sea wall?
The addition of shrubs and other plants along a sea wall is one of the most effective methods of shoreline stabilization. The vegetated buffer also protects the reservoirs from runoff that could affect water quality in the reservoirs.
In some instances, the use of a “soft armament” or plants instead of a sea wall will be the most effective method for protection around the reservoirs. This technique keeps costs relatively low and allows nature to heal itself with the planting of appropriate vegetation. The Watershed staff will work with adjacent homeowners to determine the best shoreline stabilization method depending on the property slope and other factors. Guidance on shore stabilization methods may be found here.
- Why can’t I lay sod all the way to the water?
Spartanburg Water has identified parcels that have pre-existing lawns on Lakes Bowen and Blalock. Permits are no longer being granted to sod the Spartanburg Water property adjacent to the reservoir. Existing lawns that are maintained through mowing may continue until such a point that consistent maintenance ceases to occur.
Once any substantial amount of unchecked growth has occurred, as determined by Spartanburg Water staff, the lawn is considered “natural” and no additional cutting will be permitted on Spartanburg Water property.
The lawns present an impact to water quality in the reservoir and, in order to reduce the impact of runoff from pollutants and nutrients, applications of any chemicals or fertilizers is not allowed on the property adjacent to the reservoir owned by Spartanburg Water. Lawns on Spartanburg Water property have been allowed only “routine lawn maintenance” and that maintenance consists of only mowing and additional activities like re-seeding and placement of straw to temporarily hold the seed. This requires a permit, in advance, from the Watershed staff.
- Do you know how much this is going to affect my property value?
Spartanburg Water owns all the property around the three reservoirs and is charged with protecting and enhancing the quality of water, which is used for drinking water throughout Spartanburg County. We realize that some adjacent property owners may find the requirements for accessing Spartanburg Water property and using the lakes for recreation may have some unexpected costs to ensure water quality and safety for all who enjoy the lakes.
Likewise, we realize that many property owners that live around the reservoirs are unaware of the impact that their homes and certain activities on the surrounding property have on the quality of the water. Small acts have great impacts to water quality. Runoff from the fertilizers, pet waste and other contaminants increase the cost of treating the water at the water plants. Those higher treatment costs are shared among all the users of drinking water throughout the county.
The reservoirs were created by Spartanburg Water to ensure a high quality, reliable source of water for our communities in Spartanburg County. With an eye by all for protecting our source water in the lakes, Spartanburg Water is confident that development and recreation around the lake can easily co-exist.
- What is the difference in Spartanburg Water allowing my neighbor to cut grass in the buffer and not allowing me to remove ugly underbrush? Why can they do it and I cannot?
There are some parcels around both the Bowen and Blalock drinking water reservoirs that have an established lawn across Spartanburg Water property from their property to lake edge. Removing natural vegetation has eliminated the benefit of filtering the runoff into the drinking water reservoirs and this practice is no longer permitted. Our comprehensive water monitoring program provides data on the impacts these large lawns create.
It is the current practice of Spartanburg Water to allow the established lawns to remain. However, when an established lawn on Spartanburg Water property is not maintained by the adjacent homeowner, as determined by the Watershed staff, then the property reverts back to a natural buffer area and a lawn may not be re-established.
- Why are you inventorying everything on my lot when all I want to do is cut a tree?
Whenever Spartanburg Water visits property around lake, the staff is inventorying all structures and activities that are occurring on its property. Over the years, some adjacent landowners have encroached on Spartanburg Water property. It has also come to Spartanburg Water’s attention that many adjacent landowners around our reservoirs have not requested permits in their own names after purchasing a home with existing structures on Spartanburg Water-owned property. In an effort to have every adjacent landowner be in compliance, Spartanburg Water is inventorying every lot every time an application is submitted. We are also making sure that no additional encroachments exist.
- Why can’t I remove those ugly trees? I want a great view of the lake and my yard to be attractive like my neighbors’ yard.
Spartanburg Water is committed to maintaining the vegetative buffer around Lake Blalock and Reservoir Number One. The vegetative buffer includes trees, shrubs and other lakeshore grasses, which improve water quality in the reservoirs by acting as a filter for runoff. Spartanburg Water is committed to increasing the vegetative buffer areas around Lake Bowen to decrease the impact of runoff into the reservoir.
With all three reservoirs, the removal of any vegetation or grasses from Spartanburg Water property is allowed on a case-by-case basis and with a permit issued from the Watershed staff. Only those trees and shrubs proving directly hazardous to personal health and/or property, as determined by Spartanburg Water staff or an ISA-certified arborist may be considered for removal.
- Why I am paying to protect Spartanburg Water’s property?
All of Spartanburg Water’s rate payers pay for the cost to protect the source of their drinking water and for additional treatment costs resulting from the impact of development around the drinking water reservoirs. However, adjacent property owners are not paying extra fees or costs from their impact to the source water.
- Why should I have to plant on your property?
Adjacent landowners to Spartanburg Water property often share the same values of maintaining a high quality source of drinking water for the community and a lake safe for recreation, so there is shared interest in ensuring that vegetation is added to filter storm water runoff.
In some instances, the activities requested by the adjacent homeowner require that vegetation be added to lessen the impact. It is the current practice of Spartanburg Water to only require an adjacent landowner to add vegetative buffers to mitigate for unauthorized work done on Spartanburg Water property to remediate damage. Other plantings on Spartanburg Water property may be requested by adjacent property owners for aesthetic purposes and are evaluated for their impact through the permitting process.
- Why is my neighbor’s dock on my frontage?
When a marine structure has been approved by Spartanburg Water, the Watershed staff identifies the location it will be positioned on its property. In most instances the marine structure can be placed directly in front of the adjacent landowner’s property. In other instances the topography of the shoreline and the proximity of other installed docks may require the marine structure to be located elsewhere along the shoreline. The staff considers the required spacing between docks and the impact to safety of watercraft moving either on the lake or towards adjacent marine structures.
It is important to remember that docks around the lakes are on Spartanburg Water property and that no adjacent property owner has property frontage directly onto reservoirs.
- Why do I need to permit my dock into my name when the previous landowner had a permit for the dock?
All Spartanburg Water permits are non-transferrable. Permission is granted through the permit process to people, not lots, through the Spartanburg Water permitting process.
When a new homeowner moves in, the transfer of the permits into their name is required. This process also makes the new adjacent property owner aware of the lake rules and procedures for use of the Spartanburg Water property for recreation.
- Does that mean that I am going to have to remove my boat ramp?
Spartanburg Water is not requiring anyone to remove their boat ramp at this time. We are looking at different ways to eliminate the impacts they have on water quality in the reservoirs.
- What rights do I have if I have a qualifying lot and I want a dock but my neighbor’s dock is blocking my access?
Spartanburg Water owns all the land around the reservoirs and access can only be granted by the sole permission of Spartanburg Water. When a marine structure has been approved by Spartanburg Water, the Watershed staff identifies the location it will be positioned on its property. While an adjacent property owner may meet the requirements of a Qualifying Parcel, which means that it has sufficient side width for placement, we sometimes find that the lake shoreline does not allow for a dock to be placed where the homeowner prefers. There are many coves around the lakes that limit both the location and size of the dock.
If other docks have already been sited by the Watershed staff for an area that has restricted watercraft access due to the topography, the most recent request may find their dock size limited or their dock placed in a non-preferred area along the shoreline.
- Why doesn’t Spartanburg Water permit boat ramps anymore?
While there are boat ramps on properties around the reservoirs, Spartanburg Water has not allowed a new installation in many years. Boat ramps are mostly composed of concrete or asphalt and are impervious. The water quality impact to the reservoirs is that the boat ramps function as a direct conduit of contaminants such as lawn fertilizers, etc., directly into the reservoirs from either stormwater or lawn irrigation.
The runoff from a boat ramp is one of the leading contributors to nutrient loading and sediment deposition in streams, rivers and lakes. Surface runoff from ramps, roads, lawns and agricultural areas cause big impacts to by increasing nutrient levels. In the case of water quality, nutrients are not a good thing because they cause algae to bloom resulting in taste and odor impacts to the drinking water.