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Worsening drought draws increased response from state officials

Because of the worsening drought, Georgia is requiring water utilities to begin a campaign to help residents better understand the conditions, their impact on water supplies and the need for water conservation.

“This serves as a reminder for all Georgians to use water wisely,” said Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Richard Dunn said in a news release Friday, Oct. 18. “It also gives public water systems an opportunity to educate their customers on the importance of water conservation.”

Linda MacGregor, Gainesville’s water resources director, said the city will continue to remind residents that outdoor watering is allowed before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. every day.

“We encourage wise and efficient use of water,” she said, adding that the city has “ongoing public education efforts on water conservation.”

Even though some rain has fallen, the Hall County area has been in extreme drought conditions since last week, meaning rivers and livestock ponds are dry and wells are drying up, and, as many residents have probably noticed, fall leaves dropping from trees earlier than normal.

Lake Lanier levels also have been dropping.

The lake was at 1,066.9 feet above sea level on Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s nearly 4 feet below the full pool of 1,071 feet.

“The current flash drought we are in is primarily agricultural, but it can also affect water supply,” said state climatologist Bill Murphey.  “It came on quickly due to the intense daytime heating, lack of rainfall and sudden decrease in soil moisture we experienced in September.”  

Under state law and rules, the EPD determines whether specific environmental conditions warrant a drought response declaration based upon the severity of drought conditions and their impact on the ability of public water systems to provide adequate supplies of water.

The public education requirement is considered a Level 1 drought response. A Level 2 drought response triggers outdoor water use restrictions.