A severe drought declaration in southwest Georgia's lower Flint River Basin will not be necessary this year because of sufficient rainfall and favorable stream flow and groundwater levels in the region, according to Carol A. Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).

The EPD director is authorized to issue a severe drought declaration to implement the Flint River Drought Protection Act, which established a fund to compensate farmers in the Flint River Basin who voluntarily stop irrigating their crops with surface water during a severe drought year.

EPD studies stream flow, groundwater levels, winter precipitation and three-month precipitation outlooks to determine whether a severe drought declaration is needed. The current data indicate that conditions are not present to warrant the declaration of a severe drought.

This is the third consecutive year that a severe drought declaration in the lower Flint River Basin has not been necessary. The EPD declared a severe drought in the Flint River Basin in 2001 and again in 2002, which activated the Flint River Drought Protection Act. The act established a fund to compensate farmers in the Flint River Basin who voluntarily stop irrigating their crops with surface water during a severe drought year.

The 2002 auction resulted in the removal of 41,145 acres from irrigation. The total amount paid to farmers was $5,257,859.76. The reduction in irrigation translated into a water savings of nearly 130 million gallons per day.

The Flint River Drought Protection Act was written to insure the health of the river, which runs through some of Georgia's most productive farmland.