Sparse rainfall last year and an even drier start to 2012 have pushed water consumption above normal in subdivision-heavy Columbia County, while Augusta residents appear to be using less water than at this time last year.
“I think April showed a 12 percent increase over last year,” said Bill Clayton, Columbia County’s Water Utility Division director. “It has been very dry for the last six weeks.”
For the first four months of 2012, Columbia County pumped 104.8 million gallons more than in the same period in 2011, with the biggest difference in April, when residents used 44.77 million gallons more than in 2011.
In Augusta-Richmond County, usage has not yet spiked, said Allen Saxon, assistant utilities director.
“You might be surprised by this but our average water demand for April 2012 is actually down slightly from April 2011,” he said. “In 2011 we delivered 40.58 million gallons per day to our distribution system, and in 2012 we delivered 38.28 million gallons per day.”
A comparison of the weather data, he said, shows that total rainfall went down slightly (1.93 inches in April 2011 versus 1.45 inches this year) but the average high temperature is also about 3 degrees lower this year.
The Augusta region — already categorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought monitor as being in “extreme” or in some cases “exceptional” drought — appears to be facing another dry year, with below-average rainfall every month.
According to National Weather Service data from Augusta Regional Airport, the 12-month rainfall total last year was 29.43 inches, or 15.12 inches below the normal annual total of 44.55 inches.
After starting 2012 with a rainfall deficit, the rainfall measured in January through April totaled 6.25 inches, or 8.6 inches below normal, and forecasters have said drier weather could persist through the summer.