Drought conditions have deepened in much of Georgia. The piedmont and mountain regions north of a line from Troup County, on the western border, to Franklin County, in northeast Georgia, are now in moderate drought, as are southeast and south-central Georgia. The rest of the state remains in a mild drought.
Rainfall has been much below normal and the temperature above normal over the past several months. This combination has led to very dry soils, record to near-record low stream flows, low reservoir and farm pond levels and dropping groundwater levels.
Rainfall deficits for Jan. 1 through April 3 include Athens at 4 inches, Savannah 4.27, Augusta 5.39, Brunswick 6.11, Columbus 6.32, Macon 6.45, Plains 6.77, Alma 6.98, Tiger 7.11, Atlanta 7.74, Tifton 7.84, Blairsville 9.64 and LaFayette 11.21.
Much of the rain deficit is due to having had little rain since March 1. The deficits from March 1 through April 3 include Athens at 1.32 inches, Tiger 1.76, Savannah 2.12, Augusta 2.64, Brunswick 2.92, Columbus 3.15, Plains 3.25, Alma 3.28, Macon 3.52, Tifton 3.92, Blairsville 4.01, Atlanta 4.26 and LaFayette 4.47.
Much of north and central Georgia received rain on the morning of April 4. Outside of the mountains and the northwest piedmont, most places reported less than a quarter of an inch.
Some areas had more than half an inch in the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. April 4. These include Helen at 0.52 inches, Irwinton 0.53, Fort Oglethorpe 0.57, Cedartown 0.65, LaFayette 0.74, Chatsworth 0.80, Marietta 0.81, Cartersville 0.98, Allatoona Dam 1.10, Dallas 1.30 and Blairsville 1.87.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center's model shows soil moisture levels north of a line from Troup to Franklin counties and across southeast and south-central Georgia to be at or below the 10th percentile. At this level, the soils would have more moisture than they have now in nine out of 10 years.
Across the northwest corner of Georgia, the soil moisture is at or below the 5th percentile. In other words, the soils there would have more moisture than they now have in 19 out of 20 years.
Stream flows statewide are abnormally low for early April, too. Most rivers and streams are at or below the 10th percentile for the date.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports record low daily flows for April 4 on the Flint River near Carsonville and Oakfield and at Albany and Bainbridge, the Middle Oconee near Athens, the Ocmulgee near Jackson and at Lumber City, the Altamaha at Baxley and Doctortown and the Little Satilla near Offerman.
Stream flows across northwest and northeast Georgia are slightly better than the state as a whole. There, flows are between the 5th and 15th percentile for the date.
Over the past two weeks, water levels on the state's major reservoirs have generally remained constant or have fallen. Levels have fallen to below desired levels for early April at Hartwell and Clarks Hill. They're steady but below the desired level at Lanier.
Water levels have risen slightly but are still below the desired level for early April at Allatoona and Russell. Both West Point and Walter F. George have levels above the guidance for early April.
Farm ponds across much of the state are low.
The state had less than desirable groundwater recharge this winter, and levels are dropping statewide.
Little if any relief from the drought is anticipated in the foreseeable future.
The spring and early summer following an El Nino winter are typically warm and dry across Georgia. So far, the pattern is holding true and is expected to continue.
Updated weather information is at www.georgiaweather.net. This University of Georgia network has 71 automated weather stations statewide.
Updated drought information is at the state drought Web site (www.georgiadrought.org). The site includes updated climatic conditions and information on how to deal with the drought.
The entire state remains under the level-1 outdoor water-use schedule. Outdoor watering is allowed only from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. 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.
(David Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)