Drought strengthens across Georgia

Local reservoirs relatively healthy

McDONOUGH — Drought conditions have spread to nearly 87 percent of the state, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

The center’s latest drought report indicates that about 96 percent of Georgia is experiencing at least abnormally dry conditions, which are most intense in central Georgia.

Clayton County is experiencing extreme drought while, in Henry County, the situation is less severe.

Raw water reservoirs in Clayton County are relatively healthy, said Guy Pihera, the water production manager at Clayton County Water Authority.

Pihera said reserve levels are at 74 percent of capacity. Last year, at this time, levels were at 68 percent of capacity.

Clayton County’s five reservoirs hold roughly 4.36 billion gallons of raw water. Henry County has five larger reservoirs that combine to hold 18.13 billion gallons of unfiltered, untreated water.

Eric Osborne is a reservoir water quality manager for the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority. His office produced a drought report this week on the status of Henry County’s stored reserves.

“Overall we’re in really good shape,” said Osborne. “We have 368 days of water without another drop of rain.”

Osborne said conditions could improve in January and February, when he expects there will be more rainfall. He said most lakes recover to full or near-full capacity during the wetter winter months.

He said October and November are typically some of the driest months of the year. Also, water use is normally down during the winter months because there is less outdoor watering.

Rainfall in the Southern Crescent has been scarce lately with the occasional day-long weather system attached to cold fronts.

State Climatologist Bill Murphey said Tuesday’s precipitation barely made a dent in the drought.

“The extended outlook looks dry, with high pressure building in behind this front (from Tuesday),” said Murphey.

Rainfall amounts are 41 percent of normal in metro Atlanta, according to a report by the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Peachtree City. Last month’s rainfall was recorded at 1.67 inches at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, down 2.38 inches from the average 4.05 inches for this time of year.

Murphey said there is an equal chance rainfall will be above, below or at normal levels this winter in central and south Georgia. North Georgia has a higher chance to see more precipitation.

“This reflects the neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation pattern that we are in now and are forecasted to remain in through the winter months,” he said.