EPD Says Drought May Continue in Southwest Georgia
(January 24, 2001)


Harold Reheis, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, announced that Southwest Georgia may be entering a fourth consecutive year of severe drought.

"After consultation with state and federal agencies," said Reheis, "we want to let people in the southwestern part of Georgia know that drought is likely to continue during 2001."

If stream and groundwater levels in southwest Georgia do not improve over the next thirty days, the Flint River Drought Protection Act might kick into gear. EPD must make a determination by March 1st on whether to implement the act.

"While we are still early in the year," Reheis said, "it's important to note that our data shows little relief from the drought so far. This is simply a 'heads-up' call to citizens and farmers in southwest Georgia."

Dr. David Stooksbury, State Climatologist and professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia at Athens, says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecast for the next three months is inconclusive. "This means that we cannot count on significant rainfall during the next few months," he said.

In addition, U.S Geologic Survey data show that streamflow levels in the Flint River continue to be low and there has been very little recharge to the Floridan Aquifer this winter.

EPD uses a "drought declaration matrix," which compiles data from several sources, including groundwater wells, streamflow gages, precipitation and climate predictions to determine whether a drought is imminent.

The Flint River Drought Protection Act, which was voted into law during the 1999 legislative session, is in place to ensure the Flint River maintains adequate flow to support fish and wildlife during times of severe drought.

If a severe drought is anticipated and the Act is implemented, farmers who voluntarily remove acreage from irrigation will be compensated by the state through an auction. The auction is limited to farmers with current surface water withdrawal permits in the Flint River Basin. Groundwater withdrawal permits are not eligible for the auction since EPD suspects these withdrawals have less impact on the Flint River flow than surface water withdrawals.

For more information on the rules of the Flint River Drought Protection Act, go to EPD's web site at www.dnr.state.ga.us/dnr/environ.