TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. — Water is vital to life, but a water system is slowly choking the Florence County town of Timmonsville.

The town’s empty Main Street, increased crime and foul, sewage-like odor after a rain can all be traced back to the mismanagement of a water system that slowly drained the vitality out of a community of 2,300.

Florence County has offered a rescue plan, offering up to $18 million in local, state and federal loans and grants to fix the Timmonsville water system in exchange for taking it over.

But the town’s budget woes aren’t fixed. Timmonsville brought in $747,000 in revenue this budget year. Nearly $100,000 went toward debt. Losing the water system restore won’t restore the budget, but new city officials are hoping they can turn things around.