Drought worsening across Georgia

Published 8:18 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

MORE THAN HALF OF GEORGIA COUNTIES are now experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, according to this image from the U.S. Drought Monitor Web site at http://drought.unl.edu/dm. State officials have asked for a drought disaster declaration in 22 counties.


State Climatologist

Drought conditions worsened across most of Georgia during May. With well-below-normal rain and temperatures routinely in the 90s, soils continued to dry. The southern half of the state is being hit the hardest.

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With little widespread rain and soaring temperatures over the next several days, conditions are expected to only get drier.

All of the counties south of Columbus and Macon are now classified as being in extreme drought.

Several counties in Southwest Georgia, including Miller, Early and Baker are now classified as suffering “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest level of drought.

Since Oct. 1, or what is considered the first of the water year, these counties have received 70 percent or less of normal rain. Over the past 6 months, Columbus has received 63 percent of normal rain. Macon has received 60 percent of normal rain.

Soil moisture conditions in the southern half of the state are generally at the fifth percentile. At the fifth percentile, the soils at the end of May are wetter 95 out of 100 years. Many farmers have not completed spring planting because the soils are too dry. Farmers are irrigating their crops just to get small plants to properly emerge, a very expensive alternative to rain.

Decatur County has received less than 17 inches of rain so far this year, eight to nine inches lower than normal.

Stream flows across the coastal plain region are very low for the end of May. Almost all streams are currently at or below the tenth percentile. At the tenth percentile, the streams would have more water in them 90 out of 100 years.

Daily record-low flows are occurring on Spring Creek near Iron City, Pachitla Creek near Edison, Muckalee Creek near Leesburg, Withlacoochee River near Quitman, Alapaha River near Alapaha and the Ocmulgee River near Lumber City. These low flows in the coastal plain are especially noteworthy since they are lower than they were in late May 2007, which was during Georgia’s last major drought.

There remains an increased wildfire risk across the state. Precautions need to be exercised when doing any activity that could generate sparks.

For the most part, water resources should remain adequate for municipal and industrial use through the summer. Most water systems in Georgia have the capacity for a drought lasting less than a year. Lake levels will decrease during the summer.

Being good stewards of water resources is especially prudent during a drought even though water resources are expected to remain adequate for the foreseeable future.

Up-to-date information on dry conditions across Georgia can be found at www.georgiadrought.org. Updated weather conditions can be found at www.georgiaweather.net.

David Stooksbury is the state climatologist, a professor of engineering and graduate coordinator for atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Drought management seminar to be held

The University of Georgia will hold a “Drought Management for Forage Livestock Producers” seminar on June 20 in Tifton, Ga. The meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the conference center at UGA’s Tifton Campus. The seminar will also be broadcast over the Web. For more information, farmers may visit www.georgiaforages.com