Environmental Management

Floodplains are a vital part of healthy waterbodies and safe roadways. They are the low, flat lands adjacent to streams, rivers, and lakes that flood frequently. Floodplains are considered part of a healthy stream and are designed to hold in flood waters, as well as support a variety of natural resources and provide natural flood and erosion control.

Our Local Flood Hazard

In Columbia County, the mostly densely developed areas are in the vicinity of Reed Creek, Betty's Branch, and Jones Creek. Localized flooding may occur around these creeks after heavy storms, normally due to flash flooding (intense rainfall in a short period of time, without time for ample ground absorption) and altered typography from new developments.

View the Inundation Areas (PDF).

Land Disturbance

In order to help preserve the natural beauty of the county, we follow a straightforward permitting process. Designed to provide a clear path of approval for land disturbance during projects of various sizes and type, an approved Land Disturbance Permit application is required for all projects in Columbia County.

To begin the process of obtaining your permit, the Land Disturbance Permit (LDP) table and supporting checklists help you easily complete an application package based on the project details.

Learn more about the Land Disturbance Permit process.

Our Waterways

Our rivers begin on your road.

When it rains, rain water that falls on natural ground soaks in, while rain that falls on impervious ground - such as roads, houses, buildings, etc. - runs off of those hard surfaces, looking for a nearby waterbody. As rain flows across rooftops, lawns, streets, and construction sites, it collects various forms of pollutants and washes them into our creeks and streams. Sediment, dirt, oil, grease, fecal coliform from animal feces, pesticides, fertilizers, lawn clippings, trash, debris, and heavy metals from our daily activities collect on roads and other impervious surfaces, posing a significant source of pollution for storm water.

Many people think that storm water runoff flows into the sanitary sewer system and on to the water treatment plant for treatment before release into surface waters; however, untreated runoff enters storm drains and then flows directly into surface waters."

A significant portion of Columbia County's drinking water supply comes from surface water sources such as the Savannah River, Clark's Hill Lake, as well as local creeks and streams. These pollutants that enters our rivers, streams, and creeks harm the natural aquatic habitat, and can end up in our drinking water.

MS4 Permit Compliance

The Federal Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act state that the operator of an MS4 must obtain a permit to discharge storm water runoff into waters of the U.S. and waters of the State. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issues and administers these permits.

Columbia County helps protect our waters through compliance with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Stormwater Permit Number GAG610000 Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). The MS4 Permit covers discharges of stormwater from the MS4 system to waters of the State. Actions geared toward pollution prevention are accomplished through public education and outreach, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site stormwater runoff control, and post-construction stormwater management to include inspection, repair, and maintenance of the County's storm system.

We strongly encourage builders and developers to learn more about MS4, and how they're an important part of keeping our waterways clean, in the annually published Enviro-Source newsletter.

View our Stormwater Management Plan (PDF), detailing a variety of ways Columbia County works to keep our waterways healthy.


It Starts at Home

Now that you know the facts, how are you going to help eliminate pollutants before they enter the system? Here are some things we can do to better take care of our water ways:

  • Follow package instructions for pesticide and fertilizer application.
  • Dispose of hazardous wastes and auto fluids at designated collection or recycling locations.
  • Clean up after your pet.
  • Have your septic system inspected and pumped, at a minimum every 3 to 5 years, to ensure proper operation.
  • Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on a lawn or other unpaved surface; this will help naturally filter potential contaminants before they enter our waterways.
  • Sweep up yard waste or debris, rather than hosing down areas.
  • Keep grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste out of the storm drain.
  • When landscaping your yard, choose plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs to prevent sediment erosion and to facilitate infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Use grass swales and porous walkways to decrease the amount of stormwater runoff.
  • Report illegal dumping to 3-1-1.

Adopt-A-Mile (AAM)

As of September 20, 2022, the Board of Commissioners voted to dissolve this program. Road signs will be removed.

Road Selection

Only County Maintained roads are available for adoption. You can request a road or we can suggest one for you. A minimum of one mile is required. To adopt a State highway, contact the Georgia Department of Transportation at 404-635-8223. For safety reasons, some roads may be ineligible for adoption (narrow or no shoulders, or roads with limited sight distances).

Adopt a Mile Forms

Adopt-A-Stream (AAS)

Did you know that certain bugs are actually good for a stream? The presence of certain macroinvertebrates is a sign of a healthy stream. Our Adopt A Stream program is a great way to learn about our watershed and protect our area streams. As a Creek Walker, you will be trained on how to monitor stream sites and perform tests on the current stream conditions. If you are interested in volunteering or would like to learn more about becoming an AAS trainer, the opportunity awaits you.

The goals of Adopt-a-Stream are:

  • To increase public awareness about water quality and non-point source pollution.
  • To give citizens the tools and training to protect their watershed.
  • To encourage partnerships between citizens and local government.
  • To collect quality baseline water quality data.


Our knowledgeable Environmental Services department is more than happy to visit your event for public education, or partner in outreach efforts. We offer presentations and partnering opportunities on:

  • The importance of water and protecting our natural resources
  • Basic ways that everyone can help prevent water pollution
  • Watershed and Water Cycle basics
  • Flyover videos of our area's watershed
  • Interactive Enviroscape table top model demonstration of pollutant impacts on our landscapes

Presentation topics and length can be tailored to your needs (generally 30 to 50 minutes). So, whether you're a local teacher, or have an event where you need a few subject matter experts, contact the Environmental Management department with any questions.