Growth by the Gallon

Growth by the Gallon

CWS preps for West Ashley‘s ever-growing fresh water demand with two big projects

By Charlie Morrison

Contributing Writer


Charleston Water Systems took another step in addressing West Ashley’s present and future fresh water needs last week, in awarding engineering firm URS Corp. with a contract to prepare a design report for the construction of the Ashley River Main Transmission Crossing Project. The Ashley River Main Transmission Crossing Project will also connect the water system to the proposed Bees Ferry Water Storage Facility, currently in the design phase. The pair of projects should see groundbreaking sometime next year. Once completed, West Ashley will have a functional, responsive connection to the local water supply, and with more settling down to live West of the Ashley every day, the timing couldn’t be better.

“We do master planning here,” says the CWS Director of Engineering, Russell L. Huggins. “Certainly (West Ashley is) probably the area with the largest growth within the City of Charleston. We have some in-fill area and we know of some new developments coming down Bees Ferry Road, so that’s increasing demand on that end of our system. This will allow us to meet those projected demands, and more importantly, it also allows us to meet the fire flow demand for public safety in those areas.

“Our needs are met now, but that’s always a concern. The potable or domestic water demand is not what drives a water main’s size, it’s fire protection. So we want to be sure we can provide that. That’s a huge, instantaneous demand when they turn their hoses on, as opposed to when we turn on the tap.”

The Ashley River Main Transmission Crossing Project will serve to shore up West Ashley’s on-demand supply of fresh water. The project will entail the installation of a 36-inch water main pipe spanning the Ashley River. The pipe that will connect the 20-inch water main under International Boulevard in North Charleston with the 36-inch pipe that runs along Bees Ferry Road. The CWS’s Board of Directors initiated the project at their Feb. 29 meeting, accepting the recommendation of CWS staffers in awarding URS the $116,000 contract, which mandates the firm design alternate routing options and cost alternatives for the construction of the water main. The URC, Corp. will come back to the CWS with their design assessment sometime in late June.

Both projects are the results of long-term planning on the part of the CWS. In regards to the Ashley River Main Transmission Crossing Project, the goal is to re-institute a third water main connection from the Hanahan Water Treatment Plant across the Ashley River to West Ashley. CWS had employed a third, 24-inch water main to compliment the larger infrastructure and serve West Ashley until the late 1990s, but the CPW was forced to shut down the pipe because of deterioration.

In the case of the Bees Ferry Water Storage Facility, the scope of the organization’s long-term planning spanned 25 years. With an eye cast towards West Ashley’s likely future growth, the CWS purchased the flag-shaped, 12-acre lot in the late 1980s. The lot is currently accessed by a dirt road approximately a half-mile from the intersection of Ashley River and Bees Ferry Roads, but a new access road will be installed for the facility as part of the Bees Ferry Widening project. Current cost estimates for the entirety of the project hover near $7 million. Huggins anticipates both projects will be put to bid by the end of the year, with groundbreaking soon after.

The principal piece of infrastructure needed is a five-million-gallon freshwater storage tank, complete with a booster station that allows for the CPW to regulate pressure on-site. Maximum potential build out on the site would allow for the installation of a second, five-million-gallon tank some time in the future, but Huggins is quick to point out that the decision to add a second tank will be undertaken in the distant future. “We may never need it,” says Huggins.

Since the CWS abandoned the third 24-inch connection to West Ashley in the 1990’s, the region’s freshwater has been supplied by two preexisting, larger main water lines, a 36-inch and 42-inch pipe, respectively. CWS has kept the construction of a third West Ashley connection on the back burner until recently when the organization made a third crossing a priority in their 2011-2013 Water Distribution Master Plan.

“Really, this is to take care of what we’ve got out there right now and what we know is coming to the Bees Ferry corridor,” says Huggins. “We also wholesale water to John’s Island, and that’s quite a demand for us. That cans water away from West Ashley.

“We certainly are getting out to the extremes of our distribution system. We’re about as far away from Hanahan (Water Treatment Plant) as you can get, and that creates some challenges for us to make sure we can continue to provide good, consistent water pressure to those areas. That’s why it’s important for us to have storage out in these areas. It’s going provide redundant, reliable water service to the West Ashley service area.”

For more information on the Ashley River Main Transmission Project, go to or call (843) 727-6800.


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