Analysis of Salinity Intrusion in the Waccamaw River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 1995-2002

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5110
Prepared in Cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
By:  and 



Six reservoirs in North Carolina discharge into the Pee Dee River, which flows 160 miles through South Carolina to the coastal communities near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. During the Southeast's record-breaking drought from 1998 to 2003, salinity intrusions inundated a coastal municipal freshwater intake, limiting water supplies. To evaluate the effects of regulated flows of the Pee Dee River on salinity intrusion in the Waccamaw River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and a consortium of stakeholders entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey to apply data-mining techniques to the long-term time series to analyze and simulate salinity dynamics near the freshwater intakes along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Salinity intrusion in tidal rivers results from the interaction of three principal forces?streamflow, mean tidal water levels, and tidal range. To analyze, model, and simulate hydrodynamic behaviors at critical coastal gages, data-mining techniques were applied to over 20 years of hourly streamflow, coastal water-quality, and water-level data. Artificial neural network models were trained to learn the variable interactions that cause salinity intrusions. Streamflow data from the 18,300-square-mile basin were input to the model as time-delayed variables and accumulated tributary inflows. Tidal inputs to the models were obtained by decomposing tidal water-level data into a 'periodic' signal of tidal range and a 'chaotic' signal of mean water levels. The artificial neural network models were able to convincingly reproduce historical behaviors and generate alternative scenarios of interest. To make the models directly available to all stakeholders along the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, an easy-to-use decision support system (DSS) was developed as a spreadsheet application that integrates the historical database, artificial neural network models, model controls, streaming graphics, and model output. An additional feature is a built-in optimizer that dynamically calculates the amount of flow needed to suppress salinity intrusions as tidal ranges and water levels vary over days and months. This DSS greatly reduced the number of long-term simulations needed for stakeholders to determine the minimum flow required to adequately protect the freshwater intakes.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Analysis of Salinity Intrusion in the Waccamaw River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 1995-2002
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2007-5110
DOI 10.3133/sir20075110
Edition -
Year Published 2007
Language ENGLISH
Publisher Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s) South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description Report: vi, 43 p.; 2 Appendices
Country United States
State South Carolina
City Myrtle Beach
Other Geospatial Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Waccamaw River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details