Georgia nearly drought free, farmers rejoice

Published: May. 16, 2013 at 3:18 AM EDT|Updated: May. 21, 2013 at 3:19 AM EDT
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - For the first time in years, South Georgia farmers aren't dealing with drought as they enter peak growing season.

They may not need to irrigate as much and when they do irrigate, they've got more water in streams and holding ponds to use.

Thanks to a rainy year so far, all but two coastal Georgia counties are officially drought free.

Farmer Tim Burch says he has a peace of mind knowing that aquifers on his Baker County farm are full thanks to heavy rain earlier in the year.

"I certainly feel a lot better this year. We're starting off with our water table replenished. I've had 30 inches of rain so far this year on my farm," said Burch.

According to the National Weather Service, Georgia is faring better than most of its southern neighbors when it comes to drought this year.

In fact, 99% of the state is considered drought free. The only exception is in Glynn and McIntosh Counties, which remain abnormally dry.

This time last year, 95.5% of the state was in some sort of drought.

Burch says he's definitely seeing the difference.

"I was digging up some irrigation pipe yesterday on my farm and at about four feet, I hit water. The past two years we couldn't do that. You wouldn't even find moist dirt when you dug deep like that," said Burch.

Farmers aren't the only ones benefitting from the best water levels since 2010.

Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center Director Doug Wilson says when we're not in drought conditions, the local economy wins.

"It helps the economy by virtue of agribusiness. It helps agribusiness around so it helps us locally because that's a big part of our economy," said Wilson.

Wilson says no matter what Mother Nature brings, we can all do our part to conserve water.

"We should always be watchful and mindful. We have to be mindful of how we manage water resources. There is a limit," said Wilson.

As for Burch, he's hoping to have a good harvest later this year.

"I feel real good with our aquifers being full. I'll know I'll be able to irrigate my crops this year without any problems," said Burch.

There's no way to know how long the non-drought will continue, but long range forecasts predict Georgia should have normal rainfall in the coming months.

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