2008 drought outlook not good - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

2008 drought outlook not good

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December 28, 2007

Albany -- The good news is, we've received around 2 inches of much needed rainfall over the past two weeks. Even parched north Georgia got rain Friday. But the bad news is that rain is nowhere near enough to make up the deficit built up during a year of drought.

"Certainly , it's well received. I mean we were in pretty dire straits there for sometime," says Dr. Mark Masters with the Flint River Water Planning and Policy Center.

While the holiday rainfall has been a gift of sorts, he says it will not be enough to alleviate the deficit.

"We would need this kind of weather pattern to persist for the next several months and unfortunately, the way that climatologist are predicting, the La Nina is going to hold throughout the winter and into the spring out in the Pacific which translates to warmer and drier conditions here in south Georgia."

If you need a reminder of just how bad the 2007 drought was in Georgia, look no further than Lake Lanier. Georgia's largest lake, and the main water source to millions of Metro-Atlantans, was reduced in many parts to banks of dried mud. Here in south Georgia, the lack of rain allowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land to burn during late spring wildfires. And the forecast for 2008 doesn't look much better.

"Right now, from the way it looks, the drought is going to kind of keep a hold on us, at least over the next 6 months," says Masters.

After parts of Georgia fell 20 inches below average rainfall amounts, Georgia leaders turned to a higher power in 2007, praying for rain during a drought of near Biblical proportions.

 In 2008, Georgia lawmakers hope to come to an agreement on a Statewide Water Management Plan.

Masters said, "There's not really a lot of specifics in terms of individual pieces of legislation that will come out of that plan. It's just a general road map of where we want to get to in the future."

While the tri-state water wars are certain to continue into 2008, so is partisan debate under the gold dome between Georgia's lawmakers over the state's water policy. But one group that is certain to be affected by the ongoing water crisis is the farmers.

"There's a lot of talk that we're going to have a Flint River Drought Protection Act auction implemented in 2008. So the ag community would be wise to keep this on their radar screen," says Masters.

That drought protection action could mean major changes for farmers if it is implemented in the upcoming year.

And while the winter months are now upon us, it's still important to remember that statewide watering restrictions remain in place.

If Atlanta doesn't get about an inch and a half of rain through Monday night, 2007 will go down as the driest year on record.

A forum will be held in Bainbridge to discuss Southwest Georgia water issues on January 9th. A panel of experts from Colorado and Nebraska will be on hand to discuss water shortage issues.

For more information on the forum, contact the city of Bainbridge at 229-248-2000.

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