An '08 drought could bring tougher watering restrictions - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

An '08 drought could bring tougher watering restrictions

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October 15, 2007

Albany -- As we enter the driest time of the year, Georgia's extreme drought of 2007 threatens to drag on and cause serious problems in 2008.

Already, part of Georgia is under an all-out watering ban.

We're not to that point in our area, but if the drought continues, tougher watering restrictions could be on the way. That could have a major effect on everyone from homeowners to farmers.

With their destructive winds and torrential rains, hurricanes have wreaked havoc on coastlines while causing flooding throughout the country.

But the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been quiet, producing little tropical rainfall, essential to the area.

"Usually we get about one or two tropical systems, if not tropical storms, tropical depressions coming through the panhandle of Florida or up the east coast. That gives recharge that keep ponds full and just something we haven't seen in 2007," said Mark Masters.

Masters is the Flint River Water Planning & Policy Center Director of Projects. He studies the waterways hit hard by the drought.

With little rainfall recharge last winter, and La Nina expected to form in the Pacific, he says this winter could be a repeat of last year.

"With record lows in the Flint and other streams, the groundwater is below what it should be. If we don't get the recharge in the 2008 season, we're going to be in a much worse situation."

The state ordered a complete outdoor watering ban in north Georgia, and there are talks of more stringent restrictions. In southwest Georgia - where crops have been hit hard by the drought, more dry weather could result in irrigation restrictions.

"There is talk of implementing the Flint River Drought Protection Act for the 2008 growing season. This means the state would actually pay farmers not to irrigate during 2008," says Masters.

This doesn't settle well for farmers like Doug Wingate who irrigates his cotton, corn, and peanut crops.

He says, "You can't farm without water and fertilizers.  To be successful in farming, you've got to have water."

It's a proposal, one of many, in an attempt to keep the most precious natural resource flowing during the driest weather.

Citizens will have a chance to voice their concerns about watering issues at  a public hearing Tuesday night at 6:00. The public is invited to give their input on the revised Statewide Water Management Plan.

That hearing will be held inside the Criminal Justice Building at Albany State University.

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