The Waccamaw River Volunteer Monitoring Project was launched in 2006 as a a citizen science project designed to:
- Increase geographic and temporal coverage of water quality monitoring in the Waccamaw River in South Carolina to assist in development of site specific water quality standards;
- Address NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Phase II program measures for public education and involvement;
- Assist in illicit discharge detection (an NPDES Phase II program requirement).
- Document water quality improvements by Horry County, Georgetown County and the City of Conway.
This volunteer-based program is administered by Coastal Carolina University's Waccamaw Watershed Academy and the Waccamaw RIVERKEEPER® Program of Winyah Rivers Foundation (a 501(c)(3) non-profit environmental organization based as Coastal Carolina University). Funding partners for the program include: US Environmental Protection Agency (through a four-year Wetlands Program Development Grant, 2005-2009); the City of Conway, Horry County, and Georgetown County.
In 2011, the Volunteer Monitoring Project on the Waccamaw was expanded upstream into North Carolina with the goal of monitoring water quality from Lake Waccamaw downstream along the Waccamaw River to its outlet at Winyah Bay. Similar to the South Carolina objectives, water monitoring at Lake Waccamaw and the Waccamaw River in North Carolina has increased the geographic and temporal coverage of water quality monitoring to assist in development of site specific water quality standards, to assist in illicit discharge detection and to document its water quality conditions. In North Carolina, project partners in addition to the Waccamaw RIVERKEEPER® Program of Winyah Rivers Foundation include Coastal Carolina University's Waccamaw Watershed Academy, Lake Waccamaw State Park, Southeastern Community College, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Town of Lake Waccamaw, Columbus and Brunswick Counties and several grantors including International Paper (Reigelwood).
Volunteers trained in using environmental testing equipment work in teams and sample twelve sites along the length of the Waccamaw River in South Carolina. Teams sample bimonthly for several water quality parameters, including conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, nutrients and bacteria. High quality data is collected to assist in identifying hot spots for land-based sources of pollutants, to assist in illicit discharge detection, to detect trends over time and to document water quality issues and improvements in the Waccamaw Watershed. These data are recorded in an online database and are accessible to the public.
The Waccamaw River Volunteer Monitoring Project is building environmental awareness throughout the Waccamaw Watershed in South Carolina and engaging citizens in the stewardship of their watershed.