I know you saw the headline. It was hard to miss:
“Georgia drought declared over.”
Got your attention?
Couple that with reports of a rising lake level at Thurmond Lake, and it seems good times with plenty of water are back with us.
Well, not so fast.
The National Weather Service, which tracks drought information along with some other federal and state agencies, says all that winter rain improved lake and pond levels “to nearly full pool” and stream and river levels “to near normal.” That’s good news for sure. And there’s more: “The rainfall deficits decreased and soil moisture improved over north and central Georgia.”
However – seems there is always a “however” in a good report! – one part of the state is still not out of the woods. Want to make a guess where?
According to the report, “coverage of the moderate drought only exists around Augusta.”
THE U.S. DROUGHT Monitor (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu) is a great place to keep track of drought conditions. Frequent updates and lots of mapping make it a useful tool. The color coding is easy to use, to follow the five stages of drought. Yellow and tan mark the two less severe stages, and those are the colors that cover Richmond and a half-dozen other counties to our north.
Across the Savannah River, a large swath of yellow and tan wipes through the midlands of South Carolina.
So, with drought lingering with us through late April, what lies ahead? Good question. The 90-day outlook from the National Weather Service is for above normal temperatures and equal chances of above or below normal rainfall.
“No trends indicated,” the report concludes.
Maybe the drought is over in most of Georgia, but it’s easy to see that the cycle has not been broken in our part of the state. A sustained drought puts pressure on our watershed to deliver to us the water we need to meet our daily needs.
In 2011, Augusta’s Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Sense initiative (http://epa.gov/watersense/). The program develops smarter ways to use water and foster conservation. Communities across the country are sharing valuable information to make their citizens and businesses educated consumers.
IN GEORGIA, four organizations have joined Georgia Environmental Protection Division to form Conserve Water Georgia (http://www.conservewatergeorgia.net) to advance the conservation ethic. The website serves as a clearing house for “individuals, students and teachers, business and industry representatives and community leaders.” The tips and tools are great reminders that our future water supply could be in jeopardy without people engaged in a strong conservation program.
Since its founding in 1996, the Academy has been in the forefront of education and outreach on fresh water issues, as well as developing the science on which to base informed public policy decisions.
Learn more about our work at http://www.naturalsciencesacademy.org.
(The writer is a former Augusta mayor and the current president and CEO of Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.)