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October 28, 2008

Drought status maintained for most counties

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources convened the S.C. Drought Response Committee on Oct. 28, 2008, in Columbia. Ten counties remain at severe and three remain at moderate status.  Recent rains prompted the Drought Response Committee to remove the drought declaration for five counties: Beaufort, Chesterfield, Darlington, Hampton and Jasper. Eleven counties along the coast and Pee DeeDrought status region remained at no drought status.  However, dry conditions continue in the Upstate where nine counties remain in extreme drought.  The counties remaining in the extreme category are: Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Abbeville, Laurens, Greenwood and McCormick.

Stan Simpson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, presented information on the current record low lake levels on Lake Hartwell and Lake Thurmond. Thurmond is nearing the bottom of its conservation pool, at which point according to the Corp’s Drought Management Plan discharge from Thurmond will equal inflow into the lakes.  The Corps reduced releases last October to a minimum of 3,600 cubic feet per second, however, with the intensifying drought conditions, Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control requested a further reduction to 3,100 cubic feet per second beginning November 1 and lasting through the end of February.  Through the proposed reduction, South Carolina and Georgia officials hope to conserve more water in the Corps' three reservoirs (Lakes Thurmond, Hartwell and Russell)  while still meeting the needs of the downstream users and to protect the environment.

Hope Mizzell, SC State Climatologist, reported that the long-lead forecast from NOAA is not encouraging calling for below normal rainfall through the winter into early next spring. "The reality is, the Savannah Basin cannot endure another year of drought without significant impacts to water users from Seneca to Savannah," said Steve de Kozlowski, Interim Deputy Director for DNR’s Land, Water and Conservation Division and Drought Response Committee Chairman. "The drought may be focused in the Upstate, but it now affects flows in the Savannah River over 150 miles downstream.  Therefore, every effort must be made by all water users to conserve water in the upper part of the basin."

According to DNR, 45 water systems statewide have mandatory water restrictions in place.  During the winter outdoor use is normally reduced, but there are other ways to conserve water inside your house.  Find and fix all leaks. A faucet drip of two tablespoons a minute adds up to 105 gallons a week of water wasted. Take shorter showers. Install water-saving devices such as low flow showerheads and faucet aerators. Run dishwashers and clothes washers with a full load only. Don't leave the water running when brushing your teeth, washing your hands, shaving or doing dishes. Use the wastebasket, not the toilet, to dispose of trash. Consider buying a low-flush toilet; it uses only 1.6 gallons per flush. Flush toilets only when necessary. Place a bucket in the shower to collect the water while it is heating up.  Use the water on plants or to refill a flushing toilet.

Contact Mizzell in Columbia at (803) 466-0814 or email at mizzellh@dnr.sc.gov for more information.

For more information about drought, visit the Office of State Climatology.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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