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Agricultural drought intensifies across Georgia

By David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

Moderate agricultural drought now covers most of the state as mild agricultural drought spreads into all of north Georgia. Only southeast Georgia now has near-normal soil moisture conditions for mid-to-late June.

Mild to moderate agricultural drought generally exists north and west of a line from Brooks to Coffee to Toombs to Lincoln counties.

Moderate agricultural drought exists north and west of a line from Thomas to Crisp to Toombs to Washington to Elbert counties and south of a line from Floyd to Lumpkin to Stephens counties.

In the mild agricultural drought regions, soil moisture loss over the past 30 days has been between 4 and 5 inches. In the moderate agricultural drought regions, 30-day soil moisture loss has been between 5 and 7 inches.

Drying out

Continued high water use by plants, high evaporation rates and little rain have caused soils to dry very quickly across the state. In regions not getting rain, soil moisture loss over the past seven days has been between 1.3 and 1.5 inches.

While tropical storm Alberto brought beneficial rains to extreme south central, southeast and coastal Georgia, most of rest of the state had little if any rainfall over the past week.

During the past 30 days, the following University of Georgia automated weather stations have recorded less than 1 inch of rain: Alpharetta, Bledsoe Experiment Farm, Byromville, Byron, Pine Mountain, Cordele, Covington, Dallas, Dawson, Duluth, Dunwoody, Eatonton, Fort Valley, Griffin, Jeffersonville, Sasser and Watkinsville.

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.

Groundwater, too

Groundwater levels are below normal statewide and are dropping.

Water releases combined with below-normal inflows have led the state's major reservoirs to drop below normal summer pool over the past several weeks. Farm ponds are showing the impacts of the dry, hot weather.

The normal recharge season for streams, groundwater and reservoirs is over. Stream, groundwater and reservoir levels are expected to keep dropping through summer into fall if the state continues to have dry or normal weather.

The most likely source of widespread drought relief this summer and fall will come from the tropics. If Georgia doesn't have any more tropical activity this summer, then the summer will probably be hot and dry.

Comprehensive drought information, including current statewide outdoor watering use schedules, may be found at www.georgiadrought.org.

Real-time weather and climate conditions, including soil moisture balance, may be found at www.georgiaweather.net.

(David Emory 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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