How to Vote for Your Water Commissioner
Most of us don’t know what a Water Commissioner does. I didn’t. But what I did know is that water is becoming a more crucial issue across the United States (and the rest of the world). We have only to look to our parched yards or rising bills to recognize this problem.
Some states and cities are more progressive than others, but most areas have nearly honorary positions controlling our water supply. In the Appalachian foothills of upstate of South Carolina our water is overseen by 5 elected officials from the city of Greenville. The mayor, a city council member the mayor appoints, and 3 additional Water Commissioners directly elected by the people.
But not all of the people… Greenville County does not get representation even though it is their water supply, only city residents can vote. In fact, the decisions made by these 5 people can affect all of South Carolina.
Additionally, these Water Commissioner positions are unpaid, 6 year terms.
Why does this matter? Water issues will vary from state to state, but most areas are experiencing similar problems: drought, pollution/erosion, increasing demand from a rising population, and legal disputes over water rights. Greenville is experiencing all of these.
Right now, South Carolina and North Carolina are in a lawsuit over water that is pending before the US Supreme Court. Additionally, South Carolina’s Saluda River that runs right beside Greenville is listed as Federally Endangered and is one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers. Other waterways in the area, including the Reedy River showcased at Falls Park in downtown Greenville, are severely polluted. The Reedy River is now framed with signage warning people not to swim in it, if the sickening oily films and dead fish collecting at its edges are not enough of a deterrent.
South Carolina also has concerns with Atlanta’s recent water shortages. They are looking to quench the thirst of their burgeoning population and Greenville’s water is on the list.
Currently, Greenville Water Commissioners “keep their day job” as the saying goes, and meet once a month at 8:30am. The public is allowed to attend in order to learn what is going on with their water, but few know about the unpublicized meetings or could attend if they did.
This doesn’t seem like enough supervision over the most valuable natural resource our area has to offer. However, this is the system we have in place and we get to elect one of our Water Commissioners next week on November 3rd. Choosing a candidate who is prepared to raise tough water issues and find ways to successfully deal with them is crucial.
Local races rarely see large turnouts. One recently elected city council member won by a mere 15 votes. This means voting in “special” elections can be a high-impact sustainable act. This beats recycling your soy milk bottles!
Personally, I am voting for John Tynan for our next Greenville Water Commissioner. After examining both candidates I feel like he is not only the logical choice, but the easy choice.
Voting registration for Greenville ended October 3rd, but if you are already registered you simply go to your regular polling place on November 3rd to cast your vote.
If you’ve forgotten your polling location, you can use the Vote411.org Polling Place Finder to find it. If you’ve lost your voters registration card, you can look it up here or call your Voters Affairs Office (quick!) to have them send a replacement.
If you won’t be around on election day, or you have to work, vote absentee! In Greenville you can do this at Greenville County Square, 301 University Ridge, 29601.