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  May 01, 2021

It’s good, it’s cheap and there’s plenty of it: Why Greenville water is good for Greenville business

Water is life, but good water can also equal good business. Particularly when it’s cheap and plentiful.

The quality of the water coming through the pipes into Greenville’s homes and businesses is not some-thing the typical consumer might pay much attention to, but for companies that rely on water for their products, such considerations are extremely important.

As Liability Brewing Company chief brewer CJ Golobish says, having good water is critical to the quality and range of the company’s products. “It gives us just a beautiful building block,” Golobish says. “It’s the best water I could probably ask for.”

The sentiment is echoed by Birds Fly South Ale Project owner Shawn Johnson. He adds that the clean, low-mineral content profile of the water gives brewers a blank canvas to build recipes that cover a wide range of beer styles. He calls that blank canvas “zero water.” “Being zero water we’re able to build our recipes,” Johnson says. “In Greenville the water is very stable for us … it delivers the same results every time out.”

Both Golobish and Johnson said Greenville’s water compares favorably to that of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, birthplace of pilsner beer and considered among brewers to be the gold standard for water quality and taste. That quality and taste is among the reasons Birds Fly South lists “Greenville water” as a primary ingredient on the cans of the company’s new line of flavored waters.

That consistency of quality is also something that is extremely important for manufacturers like Bausch and Lomb whose Pelham Road facility is the company’s primary manufacturer of vision care products. According to Rob Leonard, the facility’s maintenance manager, the availability of good, plentiful water was one of the factors that led to the company locating to Greenville in 1983. “It’s good water, there’s plenty of it and it’s inexpensive,” Leonard says. He adds that the plant uses about 4.1 million gallons of water a month to make products like contact lens solutions and that Greenville Water’s reasonable rates help the company control production costs.

How Greenville Water is able to maintain those reasonable rates is the result of long, careful planning going back decades, according to Greenville Water public relations manager Emerald Clark. The system’s reservoir at Table Rock dates back to 1925 and the North Saluda reservoir off U.S. 25 in northern Greenville County followed in the 1950s, says Clark.

Greenville Water owns the entirety of the watersheds feeding those two reservoirs totaling about 10,000 acres for Table Rock and about 20,000 acres for North Saluda. The importance of owning and controlling access to the watersheds is spelled out by a report by The Nature Conservancy for the water system in 2012. It highlights the supreme importance of leaving the areas pristine and how the lack of development or public access to the watersheds is the principal driver of their exceptional water quality. “I truly believe if we hadn’t protected those resources we’d be in a totally different place,” Clark says. “If you don’t have a healthy forest you won’t have healthy water.”

Another key benefit of the two reservoirs’ placement has to do with elevation, explains Jeffrey Phillips, Greenville Water’s director of water resources. Tucked under the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Table Rock and North Saluda watersheds occupy higher ground and water drawn from them flows almost entirely by gravity to the Stovall Water Treatment Plant in Travelers Rest.

Combined with the water’s natural purity, relying on gravity has a significant savings to the expense of water production by greatly reducing pumping costs. For comparison, it costs about two-and-a-half times more to pump water from the system’s Adkins treatment plant in Pickens County, which draws water from Lake Keowee.

Phillips also says the reservoirs get more rainfall than Greenville — another reason their locations are important. Phillips says that when combined with water available out of Lake Keowee, Greenville Water’s production capacity is on a solid footing to meet the expected growth for demand in the area over the coming decades. The utility has permits to draw a total of 280 million gallons a day (MGD) from its three reservoirs — Table Rock, North Saluda and Keowee — while current average daily demand is about 61 MGD.

In a broader sense, says Upstate SC Alliance president and CEO John Lummus, the availability of plentiful, good water has long been a driver for growth across the Upstate. As the head of one the region’s leading economic development organizations, he says that bedrock infrastructure assets like a plentiful and reliable water supply are crucial to attracting growth. “We do have incredible water resources here in the Upstate, and it has always been important in attracting businesses here.”