City of Aiken Acquires Critical Parcel in Shaws Creek Watershed

Satellite photo (from Aiken County Government website) showing Mason Branch Reservoir and surrounding forested land conserved by City of Aiken.

As 2020 drew to a close, the City of Aiken realized a years-long goal and acquired the ~2,500-acre parcel that surrounds the Mason Branch Reservoir. The dream of conserving this land (formerly known as the Brunswick Tract) is deeply rooted in the Aiken Land Conservancy. Dr. Harry Shealy, one of our founders, first encouraged the City to act nearly 20 years ago. Now, thanks to the vision and leadership of Aiken’s decision- makers, this critical parcel – the largest single tract of land in the Shaws Creek watershed – is protected from development.

What makes this property special, and why is it important to the City of Aiken? It would be hard to overstate the significance of this property. Its size, characteristics, and location relative to surface water and groundwater make it unique.

  • This parcel constitutes 5% of the Shaws Creek Watershed. Conservation of this property protects water quality in the Mason Branch Reservoir and in Shaws Creek, source of 20% of Aiken’s municipal water supply. The purchase of this property is a “green investment” that will extend the life of the City’s new water treatment plant.
  • The property rests atop overlapping recharge zones for four regional aquifers. Residents in Aiken and across the coastal plain counties of SC depend on these aquifers for clean and abundant drinking water.
  • This forested land provides habitat for a diverse array of wildlife and maintains an important corridor connecting the lower Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. The pine forest is also highly effective at passive carbon capture and storage, taking up one ton of carbon for every two tons of pine biomass.

ALC is proud to have been a trusted resource in helping the City of Aiken seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We hope you’ll join us in applauding the vision and leadership of our city leaders. The conservation of this property is not the end of an effort, but yet another step in ensuring a bright future for the Shaws Creek Watershed.

Aerial photo of a portion of Mason Branch Reservoir and the surrounding property. (Photo by Cori McIntyre)