Originally created 05/23/00

Rainfall needed in area



Thundershowers that brought an early end to the candlelit live jazz show at Riverwalk Augusta on Sunday didn't even put a dent in the drought that has parched farmer's fields and put a strain on area water supplies.

The brief shower only splashed the city with 0.03 inches of rain, leaving Augusta 6 inches short in rainfall for the third year in a row.

"You know when it rains and it's just enough to get the pavement wet and it stops? That's about three hundredths," meteorologist Leonard Vaughan said of Sunday's rain. "It's going to take several nice rain events where the entire area gets some rainfall for it to even make a dent in the drought."

Despite the hot and dry conditions that created a higher water demand during the weekend, Augusta's water supply held up for the most part, said Brian Richards, the utilities department superintendent of construction and maintenance.

Utilities officials were in a wait-and-see stance this week after four tanks ran dry Wednesday because of heavy watering, leaving many south Augustans without water.

And there were a handful of reports of low water pressure and discolored water in some areas during the weekend.

"We had some low pressure complaints on the western part of Tobacco Road, which is the area we experience the most problems with, calls about milky water, and other water pressure calls," Mr. Richards said.

Complaints about brown water coming from the taps in some parts of the city "could be related to the additional pumping that we are doing, running the pump more continuously," he added.

"They've had some calls at the Highland avenue filter plant because of us distributing more water at a higher pressure, keeping the system full in some areas."

With the warmest summer months still ahead, the utilities department is continuing to complete water projects that will bring more water to the system to meet upcoming watering demands. By the end of the week, a new 20-inch line in the Morgan and Tobacco roads area is supposed to be added to the system and will help supply the western portion of Tobacco Road, Mr. Richards said.

Workers testing the line Monday discovered that there was a leak at one of the 1,100 joints in the line, which will hold up the process until the exact location of the leak is discovered, Augusta Utilities Director Max Hicks said.

In Columbia County, the warm weekend pushed residents' usage to about 28 million gallons, about 2 million shy of the county's production capability.

But Water and Sewer Services Director Billy Clayton said the county's reserves - several million gallons stored in tanks throughout the county - were not depleted.

"We feel pretty good about where we are at right now," he said.

As of Monday, compliance with the first phase of the county's water conservation plan was still voluntary. But the total water ban on Monday has had a significant impact, Mr. Clayton said.

"In years before, we have never had any down time to do routine maintenance," Mr. Clayton said. Now they perform some of the work on Mondays.

Staff writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.