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Drought worsens!

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October 10, 2007

Albany-  A lack of rainfall has many of Georgia's rivers and streams at their lowest levels ever recorded as we head into the driest time of the year. That resulted in an all out watering ban in north Georgia.

Here in South Georgia, we're still under level two drought restrictions. It's not as bad here because underground aquifers supply our water, but they're dropping too, and it could become a serious problem if the winter months are as dry as predicted.

Water is still flowing along the Ichawaynochaway Creek, but it's in spite of a lack of rainfall. It's flowing because the Floridan aquifer also feeds the stream.

"This is a base flow that's supplied by the ground water system, so without our connection with the Floridan many of our streams would not be flowing this time of year," said Woody Hicks, a Hydrologist.

In Iron City, Spring Creek is dry and this map shows why. Red areas indicate the deepest rainfall deficits in North Georgia. A two foot deficit falls where Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier get their recharge and supply water to residents.

In south Georgia the deficit is around a foot, but you can see areas in Terrell and Seminole Counties where its worse. Levels in the Floridan Aquifer and two others where most of south Georgia gets its water are low, but haven't been affected as severely.

"If the aquifer were extremely low, lets say below the level of this stream then we would see disappearing stream like we do in Valdosta and parts of north Florida," said Hicks.

There's concern because October is typically the start of a dry season for south Georgia, but less water is also used.

"Beginning the end of October when people are starting to weatherize their yards, people are not planting, certainly not filling their swimming pools, children are not wanting to be outside, agencies are not wanting to raise money by holding a car wash so as a whole we use much less water," said Lorie Farkas, Water,Gas, & Light.

In fact, Albany is already pulling less water from the aquifer.

"We've only been pumping as late as last month and this month probably as well only 16.8 million," said Farkas.

State mandates allow the city to pull as much as 34 million gallons a day. Right now, Albany is only using about half that amount which is good news, but the reality is south Georgia needs rain and hydrologists say if we don't get it this winter, when farmers start to plant next spring there could be serious problems.

Stream flow along the Flint River is about 60-percent below what is considered normal for this time of year.

Low stream levels have made Georgia Power's hydroelectric plants nearly useless, but the utility found other ways to keep the power flowing.

During the heat wave, Georgia Power encouraged customers to sign up for their Power Credit program. A switch can be installed on your air conditioner and when the demand for electricity peaks, a signal is sent to reduce the time your unit runs. Customers who sign up get a monetary benefit.

"The way it would save the customer money is when a customer initially signs up for the program they would receive a 20 dollar credit either the next month or the month following depending on where it is in the billing cycle they sign up. Every time we activate the system to cut the compressor off or control the compressor, there's a two dollar rebate," said Jay Smith, Georgia Power spokesman.

Customers can sign up by calling Georgia Power or logging onto their website. The program runs May through September.

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