With less than a month to go, weather officials say it looks as if 2004 will end as a normal year for rainfall.
As a result, regional water officials say the lack of a drought that has plagued many recent summers is helping them prepare for next year's water demand.
"I think for sure we can say this year was a recovery year from the drought," said Billy Clayton, Columbia County's water and sewer director.
He said that by avoiding water supply issues this year, his department has been able to focus on maintenance.
"We're really looking for smooth sailings. ... We're getting ready for next summer right now," he said.
Drew Goins, the assistant director of water production for the Richmond County Utilities Department, said his department also has had no problems with water demand this year.
"We had absolutely no water shortages whatsoever," he said. "Mother Nature was good to us. ... Anytime, just like in any business, when you can spend more time on preventative maintenance than reactive maintenance, then you're ahead of the game."
With adequate rainfall, area water officials say they haven't had a problem enforcing a statewide outdoor water conservation plan.
"We haven't had a lot of issue with it," said Allen Saxon, the assistant director for Richmond County wastewater treatment. "Maybe just one or two incidents."
Through Friday, the Augusta area had received 39.74 inches of rain this year - about 2 inches below normal, said Al Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.
As of Friday, the area had received 0.36 inches of rain for December, about a half-inch below normal for the Dec. 1-10 time frame.
Richard Charnick, also a meteorologist with the weather service in West Columbia, said the average rainfall in the Augusta area for December is 3.14 inches. However, he said a weak El Nio pattern, which is expected to last until spring, could bring an above-average rainfall, closing the average rainfall gap by the end of the year.
"We probably could make that up in December," he said. "We might end up a little above before it's over."
And with more precipitation in winter months, more frozen precipitation could come, he said.
"It would probably increase our chances a little more than normal with wintry weather," he said.
Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Columbia and Richmond counties, the conservation plan calls for no outdoor watering on Mondays. Even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Odd-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The state's plan calls for odd-numbered addresses to water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; even-numbered and unnumbered addresses to water only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and for their to be no watering on Fridays.
Measurements are in inches, by month.
Source: National Weather Service