Clean, healthy waterways: It's easy to do, and it's up to you

greenhhi16Hilton Head Island expects to be designated an MS4 community

One of the great attractions of living on Hilton Head Island is our abundance of water bodies: creeks, sounds, the ocean, wetlands and ponds that we all love to explore, photograph, swim in and fish in.

Living near the water can create challenges, however, in keeping those water bodies clean and healthy. The impervious surfaces (surfaces that do not allow water to pass through them) in our developments create storm water runoff that carries pollutants such as oils, greases, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and litter into our waters.

For tidal creeks and other salt waters, the sheer volume of rain water runoff can cause drops in salinity and the death of oysters, shrimp, crabs and other marine animals. Over time, all of this can degrade the quality of our water bodies and reduce the number of marine organisms that can live there.

This year, the Town of Hilton Head Island expects to be designated as an MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems) community by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The MS4 designation is a strategy that state environmental agencies use to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act and help reduce discharge of pollutants and protect water quality.

The program requires MS4 communities to establish and meet goals in six categories, one of which is education of the public as to the problems of storm water pollution and actions the public can take to reduce or stop that pollution.

All three championship golf courses at The Sea Pines Resort – Harbour Town Golf Links, Heron Point by Pete Dye and the Ocean Course – have implemented numerous environmentally sound practices to maintain the area’s natural environment and wildlife habitats, while still providing a premier playing experience.

There are many ways that we, as individuals, can help keep our waters clean and preserve our high quality of life here on the island. They include:

  • Keep a buffer of vegetation between a home or business and a waterway. Roof surfaces, asphalt and concrete all cause rain to “run off” of them rather than soak into the ground. Without a vegetated buffer to slow down this storm water runoff, this water and the pollutants carried by it can flow into waterways. For more information on buffers, go to Remember to always check with the town prior to any activity in a buffer to ensure that it complies with our buffer regulations.
  • Never dispose of yard waste in storm drains or ditches. Turn that waste into treasure by using it as a great natural fertilizer for your lawn and plant beds. Leaves are especially good for this. For more information on mulching and composting yard debris, go to
  • Don’t over-fertilize your yard. Use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly, and always read package directions before applying. An inexpensive soil test and identification of a pest species will help you apply the proper products.
  • Use more pervious surfaces. If you are remodeling or building a new home or business, consider using pervious concrete, paver stones or other pervious surfaces for walkways, driveways, parking lots or patios. These will allow rain to soak into the ground and reduce the amount of storm water runoff produced. To learn more, go to
  • Pick up after your pet. Bacteria from pet waste often enter water bodies via storm water runoff. Scientists are also finding traces of veterinary drugs in surface water; the human health and ecosystem effects of these substances is currently unknown.

greenhhi17All of us working together can improve and protect our water quality for our health, our environment and to keep Hilton Head Island a beautiful place to live and visit!

Sea Pines Montessori Academy goes green every day. All bathrooms have reminders about turning lights off when leaving, and the students and staff are conscious of turning the water off when washing hands. Between beach clean-ups and a strong recycling program, we are always looking for ways to sustain the beauty in our community and preserve a strong future. All are welcome to come by the school and view our “recycled” art projects.