Drought conditions improving, slowly

Southern Crescent water supply moderate

Special Photo: A healthy Blalock Reservoir in Clayton County holds about 889 million gallons of water when full, and spans about 263 acres.

Special Photo: A healthy Blalock Reservoir in Clayton County holds about 889 million gallons of water when full, and spans about 263 acres.

Local water authorities are reporting moderate water supply levels that are slowly improving. Georgia’s drought conditions, too, are slowly improving, according to a recent report from the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

This week’s report indicates that areas in the state deemed drought-less nearly doubled over the last week of November. It means that fewer Georgia counties are dealing with drought-like conditions, and more counties are dealing with less-intense drought conditions.

In contrast to conditions this past summer, when roughly 41 percent of the state was enveloped in “exceptional” drought, the report now cites “extreme drought conditions” — a less-intense rating — in the Southern Crescent, and parts of central and southern Georgia.

Rain fall amounts have improved lately in some areas of the state, including in metro Atlanta, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. Weather forecast office data revealed that metro Atlanta received about 61 percent of its normal rainfall for the month of November, relative to 52 percent of normal rain fall over the past six months.

The autumn rains boosted water levels and flows throughout the Southern Crescent for the month of November. Clayton County reservoirs are above 69 percent of capacity, according to Guy Pihera, water production manager for the Clayton County Water Authority.

“Recent rains have replenished our supplies as we were down to 61 percent earlier this fall,” said Pihera. “Current reserves represents 2.8 billion gallons of water available to supply our production facilities. We are supplying approximately 22 million gallons daily to our customers.”

Water levels in Henry County reservoirs, compared to those in Clayton County, are slightly higher with lake storage capacity at nearly 75 percent full, according to Eric Osborne, water production manager for Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority.

Osborne said demand in Henry has been moderate at an average 14.46 million gallons per day, the week of Nov. 21. He said the water authority has 13.57 billion gallons or about 377 days of water supply, based on average demand, and assuming a severe drought with no inflow.

“We are in excellent shape,” said Osborne.

Farther south, in Butts County, water customers have an adequate supply, as well, according to Marcie Seleb, general manager of the Butts County Water and Sewer Authority. “Our main source of supply, the Ocmulgee River, had a few days of near record low flows this summer,” said Seleb.

She said the water authority withdraws about 2.5 million gallons per day from the river. Approximately 175 million gallons of water flowed, per day, from the river until mid-November, she said, when Georgia Power began releasing water at 800 cubic feet per second. It amounted to about 500 million gallons, per day, flowing past the authority’s intake.

“We only withdraw 0.3 million gallons, per day, from the Towaliga River, our secondary source of supply, and haven’t had any issues there either, although I have seen water flow at zero below High Falls dam,” she said. “We have not ever needed to implement water restrictions locally, but continue to follow state requirements for watering restrictions.”

Clayton County’s Pihera said outdoor watering is allowed any day of the week, between the hours of 4 p.m., and 10 a.m., for purposes of planting, growing, managing or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs or other plants.

“We encourage our customers to use water as needed, but to follow conservation practices,” added Pihera.

Pihera said outdoor water use for any purposes other than watering of plants, such as washing cars, charity car washes or pressure washing, is restricted to the odd/even watering schedule that may be viewed at www.ccwa.us.