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Southern Crescent dry, South Georgia in drought

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Flooding continues to plague the Mississippi River Valley, delivering a painful blow to residents in Memphis, Tenn., where the Mississippi River was reported to have crested at nearly 48 feet on Tuesday. The Associated Press reported that the flood level fell just short of an all-time record.

But, as the nation learns more about the devastating Midwest flooding, the state of Georgia remains unaffected by the deluge. National Weather Service Meteorologist Robert Garcia explained that the Midwest flooding is the result of a spring thaw, and weeks of lingering storm systems that douse the region with large amounts of rain fall.

Garcia said that -- despite April's severe weather -- rainfall amounts were below the 3.62-inch norm for April in the Southern Crescent area, and well below the record 11.86 inches of rainfall in April 1979. The weather service recorded 3.06 inches of rain for April, this year, at its Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport observation site.

Drought conditions have consumed the southern two-thirds of the state, according to state climatologist, David Emory Stooksbury. Those conditions, he said, are "expected to last through the summer with a chance [that] conditions could worsen through at least the middle of August."

Stooksbury said stream flows across the southern two-thirds of the state are well below normal for early May, but across the northern third of the state, stream flows are well above normal. That is the case, also, for reservoirs in the Southern Crescent, eventhough the area is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions, according to data from the National Drought Mitigation Center's U.S. Drought Monitor.

As South Georgia experiences a moderate to severe drought, Clayton County Water Authority's reservoirs are 94.6 percent of capacity, according to Public Information Officer Suzanne Brown. The authority's five reservoirs have a capacity of 4.36 billion gallons.

"Our reservoirs are in great shape," said Brown. "Our customers continue to use less water. Our customers are doing a good job conserving water."

Clayton's customers consume 22.53 million gallons of water daily, which is about 54 percent of the authority's water-production capacity, she explained.

Brown said the authority adheres to the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, which went into effect statewide on June 2, 2010, and restricts some outdoor water use, in an effort to increase water conservation.

"We do think the current measures are working well," she added. "I don't see any need for additional conservation measures."

Roderick Burch, finance director at the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, echoed Brown's comments. Burch confirmed that Henry's five reservoirs remain at full pool with a combined capacity of 18.13 billion gallons.

"Really, we haven't seen reservoirs being down, due to drought conditions. The last time that we were below full pool was basically back in 2007," said Burch, pointing out the last major statewide drought in Georgia.

He said the water authority has managed to stay ahead of potential drought conditions with planning for leaner times. "The biggest single measure that the authority has made for potential droughts is to build the Tussahaw Reservoir in the Locust Grove area, where we've created more supply," said Burch. He said the Tussahaw Reservoir, opened in 2007, and has a storage capacity of 9.78 billion gallons of raw water.