Prolonged dry weather has prompted an elevated drought response for northwest Georgia. Effective Nov. 17, 2016, some 52 counties must adhere to a Level 2 drought response and 58 counties must exercise a Level 1 drought response.
Rainfall has been scarce since August, and water conservation is the banner message. The Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 establishes certain outdoor watering protocols to conserve water during times of drought. These rules apply to all properties served by state-permitted water systems.
In a Level 1 drought response, a public information campaign is initiated to explain drought conditions and the need for water stewardship and conservation. Normal outdoor watering should be done following best management practices and is allowed between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. any day of the week.
For existing landscapes, a Level 2 drought response brings the odd/even watering schedule by address for sprinkler systems. For even addresses (those ending in zero, 2, 4, 6 or 8), watering is allowed as needed on Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. For odd addresses (those ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9), watering is allowed as needed on Thursdays and Sundays between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.
Sprinkler systems should always be properly maintained and adjusted. Much less water is lost to evaporation during the fall and winter. To prevent extreme dryness and plant desiccation in the winter, use minimal irrigation – a 1/2-inch of water per week or less – during periods of dry weather. While natural precipitation is generally sufficient to prevent plant desiccation in established landscapes during the fall and winter, the current extremely dry conditions may require supplemental watering to help prevent plant damage.
Under all levels of drought response, new plant material can be installed under a 30-day exemption period. Once the establishment period has expired, the drought-response watering practices must be followed accordingly.
The drought response allows for the following exemptions:
- Handwatering using a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle
- Food gardens
- Drip irrigation or soaker hoses
- Horticulture crops intended for sale, resale or installation
- Athletic fields, golf courses and public recreation areas
- Maintenance or calibration of an irrigation system
- Water from private wells and bodies of water on property (not exceeding state withdrawal limits)
- Water from an alternate source (grey water, rain water, air-conditioner condensate)
- Commercial pressure washing
Follow responsible watering practices and properly manage irrigation systems to protect plant health while promoting a culture of water conservation in Georgia. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension publications on drought management are available at extension.uga.edu/publications. Stay informed on the latest drought information for your area.