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Thirsty soils, streams across the state

By David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

Athens, Ga. -- The past six months have been abnormally dry across the entire state of Georgia.

Rainfall during the cool season, October through March, is needed to recharge soil moisture, groundwater, and reservoirs. Because of the dry cool season, the soil moisture hasn't been adequately recharged. As a result, the state has abnormally dry soils and low stream flows for April.

Low soil moisture

Soil moisture is lowest in the Chattahoochee and Savannah River Valleys and along the fall line. Only extreme southeast Georgia has near normal soil moisture for April.

U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges are showing low flows across the entire state. Many streams are between the 10th and 25th percentile for the date. This means that at the 10th percentile, we expect the stream flow to be greater than the current value 90 years out of 100 for this date. At the 25th percentile, we expect the stream flow to be greater 75 years out of 100.

Based on USGS data, groundwater levels were showing good recharge in November and December 2005. However, with abnormal dryness during February through mid-April, these levels are beginning to drop.

Groundwater decreasing

The normal recharge season for groundwater is over. So groundwater levels are expected to keep dropping through summer into fall.

The state's major reservoirs are in good shape. Levels will begin to drop, though, without adequate rainfall soon.

Georgia is now under the normal odd-even outdoor water use schedule. Odd-numbered addresses may water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses may water only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are no hour limits.

The normal odd-even schedule is used whenever the state isn't experiencing a drought. While conditions are abnormally dry, Georgia is not in a drought. However, proper water use during abnormally dry times can delay or even prevent the need for more stringent water use restrictions later.

Local governments and water providers are authorized to implement more stringent outdoor water use schedules within their jurisdictions.

Comprehensive updated information may be found at www.georgiadrought.org. Real-time weather conditions, including soil moisture balance, may be found at www.georgiaweather.net.

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

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