S.W. Georgia water levels concern future agriculture expansion - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

S.W. Georgia water levels concern future agriculture expansion

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The water levels on the Flint River and many other area streams are back down to historic lows for this day of the year.

The demand for Georgia agriculture to expand is great, but state water experts are concerned whether there will be enough water to satisfy that growth.

October historically is Southwest Georgia's driest month of the year, and once again in 2012 we are running a rainfall deficit.  The streams, rivers, and ground water levels are all low. Water experts wonder if they will bounce back enough to satisfy expanding goals for farmers in 2013 .

The Flint River water level today is measured at 861 cubic feet per second. In 64 years of records, the previous minimum flow on October 24th was in 1964 at 1090 cfs.

At the Leesburg gauge on the Muckalee Creek, today's level is 59 cubic feet per second. In 31 years of recording, the previous low was 67 in 2001.

Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center Executive Director Doug Wilson said "Even though we've quit irrigating for the most part for this season, the streams haven't recovered and the ground water hasn't recovered. We still got really low levels in both."

With expected record harvests of peanuts and cotton underway now in Georgia, the state's number one industry is expected to grow in the future because of high commodity prices and expanding worldwide demand.

 Wilson said "All the streams that we just looked at are at record low levels. With what we have currently a field, can we put more fields and can we grow that segment, or are we stuck. And I think that's the 64 thousand dollar question."

The state climatologist has forecast normal rainfall this winter, which may recharge the aquifers and streams and rivers, but will it be enough if the drought continues into 2013.

Wilson said "It's always worse in the second year. You start getting that cumulative effect. We go dry again this winter and we don't recover, then we'll start next year's irrigation season in worse shape than previously."

And with the streams that some farmers depend on for irrigation currently at record lows, can Southwest Georgia farmers expand to more acres next year. 

Agriculture is by far Southwest Georgia's leading industry, with a statewide economic impact over 12 billion dollars. Water is the big question as state leaders look at growth.

Another major factor impacting the availability of water is population.

The number of people living in Georgia, especially in the Atlanta area, continues to grow.

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