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New report notes state's persistent dryness

Climate conditions in the state of Georgia are inherently better than those in the arid region of the Horn of Africa, which reportedly has been plagued extreme drought and famine. Even so, some concern over dry conditions, here, is building.

"Our water supply is in good shape, with our reservoirs at 88 percent," said Suzanne Brown, spokeswoman with the Clayton County Water Authority.

"We're still at 97 percent of full pool," said Roderick Burch, the finance director for the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority. "We're still in really good shape. Throughout the month of July, we averaged 18.4 million gallons per day, peaking at 20.1 million gallons on July 11."

Still, abnormally dry conditions are impacting the two counties. This summer, arid weather covers nearly all of Georgia, according to the July 2011 Georgia Climate Summary released Thursday State Climatologist David Stooksbury.

"Scattered showers in July reduced drought in South Georgia, though there are still areas of exceptional drought," said assistant state climatologist, Pam Knox, who prepared the climate summary.

"A few parts of southern Georgia are in worse shape than the last drought [which began in 2007]," Knox said. "But dry conditions [also] increased in North Georgia."

The National Drought Mitigation Center's U.S. Drought Monitor reported about 88 percent of the state is experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought conditions.

The report indicates that more than 68 percent of the state, south of Spalding and Butts counties, is experiencing extreme-to-exceptional drought. Conditions are less arid to the north, in Butts, Spalding, Henry, and Clayton counties, which are experiencing moderate-to-severe drought.

Average monthly rainfall continues to be reduced from normal, according to the National Weather Service at Peachtree City. Rainfall amounts recorded at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson observation site were 63 percent of normal for the month of July, with 3.11 inches of accumulated rainfall.

Knox said drier conditions are exaggerated when reduced rainfall amounts are coupled with warmer than normal temperatures. "Hot temperatures plagued the whole state," Knox said. "For the sixth straight month, temperatures across Georgia were above normal. In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees above normal), and in Macon 83.2 degrees (2.1 degrees above normal)."

The assistant state climatologist said all National Weather Service stations in Georgia showed readings among the top 12 warmest July months and top five warmest June-through-July periods.

Atlanta experienced its fifth-warmest July, and the fifth-warmest June-through-July period, since records began in 1878, she said. This year also had the region's second-warmest February-through-July period on record.

Knox said she expects there will be another active tropical storm season, as with the 2010 season. She said that storms, last year, however, followed tracks that just missed Georgia, minimally affecting the state's rainfall and water supplies.

"[Presently,] the water supply in North Georgia is not in bad shape," she said. "Lake Lanier in northern Georgia hit its lowest level since Sept. 20, 2009, due to evaporation and lack of runoff into the lake. High temperatures have caused a lot of evaporation from the surfaces of water supplies, but, overall, there hasn't been any big concern with water."

Water authority officials in Henry and Clayton counties said they do not anticipate the state will make any changes to existing outdoor watering schedules.