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Mild agricultural drought conditions back in state

By David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

As Geogia enters the heart of the growing season, mild agricultural drought conditions have returned to much of north and central Georgia. The remainder of the state is abnormally dry.

Mild drought conditions exist primarily south of a Polk County-to-Stephens County line and north of a Quitman-to-Lincoln County line. Most of the remainder of the state is quickly approaching mild agricultural drought conditions.

Soil moisture levels in southeast Georgia are near normal for mid-June.

Tropical weather system Alberto is bringing some moisture relief to south Georgia on Tuesday. Until the final track and timing of Alberto is known, though, the impact on the moisture supply in Georgia won't not be known.

High water use by plants and high evaporation rates associated with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s have caused soils statewide to become very dry.

Hot crops

The immediate agricultural concerns are with corn and pasture conditions. Corn has started to pollinate across the state. Hot and dry conditions during pollination cause major reductions in corn yields. Pasture production is also being negatively affected. This impact will hurt livestock and dairy operations and could linger into the winter.

Rainfall during the cool season, October through March, was low across most of the state. Because of the dry cool season, the soil moisture was not adequately recharged to provide a buffer for a period of little rain and high temperatures.

During the past 30 days, the following University of Georgia automated weather stations are among the 28 receiving less than 1 inch of rain: Alpharetta, Arlington, Brunswick, Pine Mountain, Camilla, Cordele, Covington, Dawson, Duluth, Eatonton, Fort Valley, Gainesville, Griffin, Statesboro, Valdosta, Vidalia and Watkinsville.

Low streams

U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges are showing low flows across the entire state. Many streams are near the 10th percentile for the date.

At the 10th percentile, we expect the stream flow to be greater than the current value in 90 years out of 100 for the current date.

Based on USGS data, groundwater levels were showing good recharge in November and December 2005. However, with abnormal dryness during the late winter and early spring, groundwater levels were beginning to drop by mid-April. By June, levels were below normal statewide and still dropping.

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

The state's major reservoirs are in good shape now. However, water levels are starting to drop. Farm ponds are showing the impacts of the dry, hot weather.

Watering

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.

Local governments and water providers are authorized to implement more stringent outdoor water use schedules within their jurisdictions. Some water providers, especially around Atlanta, are starting to implement more stringent outdoor water use requirements.

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 Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(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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