The water tastes so bad at Edisto Beach that hardly anyone drinks it, but for $8 million the town can fix the problem.

That is the conclusion of experts who say that with a new treatment system, residents can partake of what comes out of the tap without turning up their noses.

The stuff in the water causes other problems, too; it corrodes plumbing, appliances and water heaters, the town says.

But it can be useful for cooking.

“If you use the tap water you don’t have to salt anything. It’s great when you cook grits,” said Town Administrator Iris Hill.

A referendum is scheduled June 25 for 700 registered voters who call Edisto their primary home to decide whether it is advisable to move forward with the project. The town has 2,500 water accounts.

Water rates are projected to double by 2017 if the project is approved and constructed. The current rate for minimum water use is $21 per month.

Different financing options have been explored. The town applied for a 20-year State Revolving Fund loan and it is looking at a 30-year bond. Also, grants from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are being sought. Accommodations taxes are being considered as a way to offset interest rate charges.

Public hearings on the proposal to drill a 2,000-foot-deep well and build a reverse osmosis treatment system are planned for 3 p.m. on May 26 and June 15 at the Edisto Beach Civic Center.

Proponents of the new system, which could be operational in two years, note that the elevated levels of salt in the water have health implications for people with high blood pressure. In general, though, the unsavory water is safe to drink.

The situation has driven a majority of homeowners to purchase and maintain reverse osmosis systems for private use, a cost that would be eliminated if the new water system is built, the town says.

Demand for water at Edisto Beach ranges from 300,000 gallons per day in the off-season to 1.2 million gallons per day during the summer. The proposed new system, which will include an aquifer storage reservoir, will help with the water supply issues, the town said.

The current water supply is drawn from groundwater wells that are about 500 feet deep. Reverse osmosis water is available for free at a Town Hall dispensing station.