Briarcliffe Acres - Coastal Carolina University
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Volunteer Water Monitoring Program

Briarcliffe Acres


This program has two goals: (1) To monitor fecal bacteria levels in the Briarcliffe Acres swash and (2) To monitor the eutrophication status of two lakes that are upslope from the swash and share hydrological connections.

Briarcliffe Acres Swash: The primary water quality concern is a long-term swimming advisory posted by SC DHEC in the surf zone adjacent to the Town of Briarcliffe Acres just downstream of the swash.  This advisory is based on monitoring of the fecal bacteria, Enterococcus, by SC DHEC and CCU’s Environmental Quality Lab (EQL) since 1997.  To view these data, click here.  Due to frequent contraventions of water quality criteria for Enterococcus, the monitoring site located at the mouth of the swash (WAC-09A) has been on the federal list of impaired waterbodies since 2002. In 2009-2010, a watershed-based investigation documented high levels of Enterococcus in the waters draining into the ocean from the Briarcliffe Swash following rain events.  This study also found evidence for a human source of the fecal bacteria.  To reduce this source, the town took prioritized installation of a sewer line to enable removal of septic tanks serving oceanfront homes and their community cabana.  This was completed in 2017.  The monitoring program in the swash was started in 2019 to assess the success of this remediation effort.  Sampling is conducted at three sites in the Briarcliffe swash biweekly, year-round.  The sites are located at the head, mid-point and mouth of the swash. The volunteers collect data at the mid-point site. CCU’s EQL performs regulatory level measurements of Enterococcus at all three sites. 

North and South Lakes:  Several natural lakes are present in the town of Briarcliffe Acres.  They are termed “cats-eye ponds” and originated as lagoons that became isolated from the ocean as a result of coastal processes such migration of barrier islands.  The lakes now serve as stormwater retention ponds that have the potential to discharge into the Briarcliffe Swash. The major concern in these lakes is cultural eutrophication in which fertilizer runoff can lead to overgrowth of algae, followed by oxygen deficits. This is monitored via nutrient and oxygen measurements. The volunteer data are also used to detect potential illicit discharges of sediment through measurements of turbidity.

The volunteer water quality monitoring program is supported by Horry County’s Stormwater Management Program.  The town of Briarcliffe covers the costs of the regulatory-level Enterococcus measurements performed by the EQL. The volunteers work closely with the town’s Stormwater Committee to review water quality results and discuss management strategies in collaboration with the town council and Horry County stormwater staff.

Please visit the links to the left that lead to sampling dates, publications, presentations, schedule of events, and an interactive tool where you can download data, view statistical summaries and construct graphs.

History of monitoring in Briarcliffe Acres

1997 to present:  Weekly beach monitoring of fecal bacteria (Enterococcus) from May to October in surf zone at mouth of White Point Swash and along the beach in front of the cabana and Beach Drive road end.  Switched to year round in March 2013.  WAC-09A (White Point Swash) is on federal list of impaired waters (303d list).

2000: Microbial source tracking of storm water outfalls on Grand Strand.  Spot sampling at bridge over swash at Beach Drive found significant percentage of human-sourced fecal bacteria.

2003 to 2005:  Spot sampling in lakes for fecal bacteria.  Low levels reported.

2009 to 2010: The EQL conducted the first genotypic microbial source tracking project on Grand Strand as part of a watershed study of Briarcliffe Acres and the Meher Baba property. The projected concluded that human sourced bacteria were present in Briarcliffe Acres swash during both wet and dry conditions.

2012 to 2017:  The EQL conducted a groundwater study to improve management of lake levels during droughts and concluded water table near the swash was often high enough to intercept septic tank leach lines.

2015:  The EQL conducted another microbial source tracking project to compare discharges from Briarcliffe Acres swash and White Point swash. The project found both swashes were contributing to downstream impairment at WAC-09A.

2019: In February, the Waccamaw Watershed Academy began the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring program in Briarcliffe Acres. 

Interested in Volunteering?

For more information on how to get involved contact the Briarcliffe Acres Field Leader.