U.S. Water News Online
ALBANY, Ga. -- Most of Georgia remains unusually dry,
despite 2 to 3 inches of rain that moistened the ground recently and
caused some rivers to swell temporarily.
The state has been in a drought since May 1998, leading to
statewide water restrictions, payments to farmers who don't irrigate,
dry wells for some rural residents and a daytime ban on lawn watering
in metro Atlanta.
``For this time of year ... the entire state is suffering drought,
except the northwest,'' said David Stooksbury, the state
``We still have time to correct short-term problems. The next
eight weeks will be critical. We still have time to get soil moisture
up to near normal conditions. But every week we go with little or no
rainfall is making it less likely we can get groundwater and
reservoirs recharged to normal.''
Stooksbury, a University of Georgia engineering professor, said he
expects dry conditions to continue across south Georgia, with near
normal rainfall in the northern third of the state.
``The middle third -- who knows?'' he said.
The state Environmental Protection Division, which is responsible
for water quality and water availability, has announced it may make a
severe drought declaration by March 1, authorizing a second round of
payments to farmers in the Flint River Basin who agree not to
``The Floridan Aquifer in southwest Georgia has simply not
recovered from four consecutive dry years,'' EPD Director Harold
Last year, during the first summer of the Flint River Drought
Protection Act, the EPD saved about 130 million gallons a day by
paying farmers $4.5 million to idle some irrigation systems.
In 2002, some rural residents north of Albany found themselves
with dry wells. They blamed farmers, who were pumping large
quantities to keep crops alive.
Statewide water restrictions continued through the winter, even
though that is supposed to be the state's wet season.
In Atlanta and 15 surrounding counties, homeowners can water only
between certain hours on even-odd days. Elsewhere, they can water on
even-odd days, but have no time limits.
Stooksbury said last week's rain expanded rivers in southwestern
Georgia to near-normal levels, but without more those flows will
``Coastal Georgia has not received the beneficial rains,'' he
said. ``Stream flows ... are still extremely low.''
The only bright note in the grim outlook is the apparent formation
of an El Nino weather system in the Pacific.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
said they have observed a slow trend toward El Nino, as below-normal
sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific have given
way to above-normal readings. El Nino usually means wetter weather
during the cooler months over the southern United States.
But the effects of the latest El Nino may not be felt until next
fall, Stooksbury said.
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