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Drought Still Dusting Much of Georgia

U.S. Drought Monitor

Most of Georgia has had a dry late summer. Hydrologic conditions across the state have not improved. Across much of the northern two-thirds of Georgia, agricultural drought has returned.

Late summer's dryness prevented recharge of the hydrologic systems across the state. Groundwater levels are near last year's lows, with some places near record low levels. This is especially important in south and coastal Georgia, where groundwater is the major source of fresh water.

Stream flows in the mountains, the piedmont, the northern coastal plain, and the southwest corner of the state are extremely low.

Georgia rivers with very low levels include the Little River near Washington at 6 percent of normal flow, the Flint near Griffin at 16 percent, the Ohoopee near Reidsville at 18 percent, the Broad near Bell at 25 percent and the Oconee near Athens at 38 percent.

Only southeast and south central Georgia have above normal stream flows. Above-normal flows are reported in the St. Marys-Satilla and the Suwanee-Ochlockonee River Basins. These basins had generous tropically induced rainfall during the past few weeks.

Major reservoirs across north and central Georgia remain well below summer full pool. Reservoirs at least 5 feet low include Allatoona at 5 feet, Clarks Hill and Hartwell 7 feet and Lanier 10 feet.

Agricultural Drought Back

Because of the dry conditions since Aug. 1, the northeastern coastal plain and the central and eastern piedmont have returned to agricultural drought conditions.

Crops, pastures, lawns and landscapes are showing drought stress. Cities in the region include Athens, with 21 percent of normal rainfall, Atlanta (31 percent), Augusta (64 percent), Dublin (50 percent), Statesboro (25 percent) and Vidalia (50 percent).

Most of north Georgia had below-normal rainfall during the past seven weeks. From Aug. 1 through Sept. 18, the percentage of normal rainfall received included 47 percent at Watkinsville, 59 percent at Rome, 61 percent at Calhoun, 62 percent at Dunwoody and 66 percent at Gainesville.

Across middle Georgia, the percentage of normal rainfall over the past seven weeks include Griffin at 41 percent, Dearing at 44 percent and Eatonton at 55 percent.

Soil Moisture Low

More important than the rainfall deficits is the actual loss of moisture from the soils. Soils lose moisture through evaporation and transpiration (plant water use).

Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 18, soil-moisture losses in north Georgia include Watkinsville at 5.85 inches, Calhoun 4.13, Dunwoody 3.62, Duluth 3.52, Gainesville 3.40, Rome 3.31 and Dallas 2.60.

In middle Georgia, soil-moisture losses include Midville at 6.61 inches, Griffin 5.85, Eatonton 4.73, Dearing 4.43 and Cordele 4.11.

And in south Georgia soil-moisture losses include Statesboro at 6.39 inches, Tifton 4.72, and Vidalia 4.71, Savannah 2.68 and Plains 2.16.

Peanut Farmers Need It Dry

While many Georgians would like some rain, many peanut farmers would prefer a few more weeks of dry weather. The peanut harvest is in high gear and will benefit from a dry period. The state's wineries, too, will benefit from a dry August and September.

There is little hope for long-term relief during the next three months. September through November is historically Georgia's driest period.

Without rainfall from tropical weather, there is little chance that the state will receive enough widespread beneficial rain to end both the hydrological drought and the agricultural drought.

A wetter-than-normal winter is the best hope for Georgia to emerge from the long-term drought.

(David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Pam Knox serves as University of Georgia Agricultural Climatologist with UGA Department of Crop and Soil Science.)

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