For the first time in two years, Lake Lanier’s water level has risen to 1,070 feet above sea level.
It was February of 2016 when the lake last hit 1,070, but what now represents full winter pool and good news after dry times wasn’t so two years ago.
In February 2016, Georgia was already slipping into what would become a crushing drought for the state and Lake Lanier. The lake lost five feet of water from Jan. 1 to mid-February that year, and by the end of December it had dropped another 10 feet.
Lake levels were on a gentle rise throughout 2017 — a climb that continued into 2018 and spiked at the start of February, when a few days of heavy rains washed over the Southeast. In the first 15 days of the month, the lake jumped 3.5 feet.
The recent rain and federal and state drought conservation have brought the lake up to its 1,070 feet, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers full winter pool. Whether the lake will remain so full is difficult to predict as spring comes nearer.
“Beyond five weeks is difficult to forecast,” said James Hathorn, water management chief for the Army Corps’ Mobile district. “How water levels at Lake Lanier fare through the remainder of the spring and summer will depend greatly on the amount of rainfall that we receive across the entire (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin) system because we operate it as a whole, and not by individual projects.”
Winter is the historical refilling season for the lake because of rain and lighter water use throughout the Southeast, while summer and fall take the deepest toll on the lake’s water level.