Published on 04/17/07

Severe drought conditions develop across Georgia

By David Stooksbury
University of Georgia

Athens, Ga. -- Severe drought conditions have developed across northwest and southeast Georgia. The remainder of the state is still in moderate to mild drought, except the lower Flint River Valley, which is abnormally dry for the middle of April.

In northwest Georgia, Polk, Floyd, Chattooga, Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties are in severe drought.

In southeast Georgia, severe drought conditions are east and south of a line through Thomas, Brooks, Cook, Berrien, Coffee, Jeff Davis, Toombs, Tattnall, Evans, Bryan and Chatham counties.

Moderate drought conditions are found north and west of a line through Haralson, Paulding, Bartow, Gordon, Pickens, Gilmer, Union and Towns counties.

Grady, Colquitt, Tift, Irwin, Ben Hill, Telfair, Wheeler, Montgomery, Treutlen, Emanuel, Candler, Bulloch and Effingham counties are also in a moderate drought. The rest of the state is in mild drought, except the lower Flint River Valley, which is abnormally dry.

In the regions with severe drought, the soil moisture and stream flow levels are at or below the 5th percentile. That means that soil moisture and stream flow levels are greater than the current values in 95 out of 100 years.

In the regions with moderate drought, soil moisture and stream flow levels are between the 5th and 10th percentiles, so these levels are greater than the current values in 90 of 100 years.

Deep deficits

Rainfall deficits for Jan. 1 through April 16 include Athens at 4.02 inches, Augusta 4.27, Columbus 5.04, Savannah 5.67, Macon 6.03, Plains 6.44, Brunswick 6.87, Tiger 7.54, Atlanta 7.98, Alma 8.42, Tifton 9.02, Blairsville 9.64 and LaFayette 11.27.

During the past week, portions of Georgia received beneficial rain. Among the places getting more than 1 inch of rain over the past seven days are Pine Mountain at 1.02 inches, Alpharetta 1.10, Atlanta 1.14, Arlington 1.21, Athens 1.37, LaFayette 1.47, Macon 1.67, Newton 1.84, Albany 2.03, Jeffersonville 2.33, Augusta 2.44, Columbus 2.58, Elberton 2.80, Dublin 3.04 and Cordele 3.37.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports daily record-low flows for April 16 in northwest Georgia on the Coosawattee River near Pine Chapel at Carters and near Ellijay and on Cedar Creek near Cedartown.

In southeast and south-central Georgia, daily record-low flows were reported on the Ocmulgee River at Lumber City, the Altamaha at Doctortown and near Baxley, the Ogeechee near Eden, the Ochlockonee near Thomasville, the Alapaha near Alapaha and at Statenville, the Suwannee at Fargo, the Little Satilla near Offerman and the Satilla near Waycross and at Atkinson.

Over the past two weeks, Lake Lanier's water level has remained nearly constant and is 2.5 feet below full summer pool. Hartwell and Clarks Hill are 1.8 and 1.1 feet below full summer pool, respectively.

Levels are near the desired level for middle April at Allatoona and Carters. West Point and Walter F. George have levels above the guidance for middle April.

Groundwater levels have shown some improvement with recent rains across southwest Georgia. Levels across south-central and southeast Georgia continue to drop.

Little relief

Little if any relief from the drought is anticipated in the foreseeable future.

The entire state remains under the level-1 outdoor water-use schedule. Outdoor watering is allowed only from midnight to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at odd-number street addresses and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at even-number addresses. It's banned all day on Fridays.

Local water authorities may further restrict outdoor watering.

The state drought response committee will assess the dry weather and discuss outdoor water use schedules April 18 at 1 p.m. The group will meet in Suite 1252 East Tower in the Floyd State Office Towers at 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Atlanta.

The committee includes representatives of several state agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geologic Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a regional development center, the agricultural industry and the business community.

Updated weather information is at This University of Georgia network has 71 automated weather stations statewide.

Updated drought information is at The site includes updated climatic conditions and information on how to deal with the drought.

(David Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor 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.