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State sees positive changes in county drought statuses June 6, 2017

The S.C. Drought Response Committee has downgraded the statuses of multiple counties around the state due to recent increased precipitation. South Carolina has seen a good amount of rain since the committee met in April, and members discussed Tuesday the state's overall improved drought conditions.

All counties within the state are now in normal or incipient drought status

All counties within the state are now in normal or incipient drought status

All counties in the state are now at either normal drought status or incipient. The Northeast region was downgraded from incipient to normal and all counties in the South region remained at normal status. Georgetown County in the Central region was downgraded from incipient to normal, counties in the Midlands remain at normal status, and Upstate counties were downgraded to incipient. In the West region, Abbeville and McCormick counties were downgraded from moderate to incipient. Aiken, Edgefield, and Barnwell counties remain in incipient status. The Southern Savannah counties remained normal while the upper Savannah Basin counties of Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson, which were previously in severe drought status, have also been downgraded to normal. This dramatic change in drought status brought about a lengthy discussion amongst committee members.

"We've experienced a drastic turnaround in just two months' time," Naturalist and West Region Drought Committee Member Dennis Chastain stated. "Groundwater has significantly improved. Streams are flowing well. There are no water supply problems. And agriculture at all levels seems to be in great shape. These changes justified the downgrading of Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson counties."

Improved conditions in other parts of the state also served as evidence that downgraded drought statuses were warranted.

"Streamflow conditions and groundwater conditions have greatly improved throughout the state over the past two months," SCDNR Hydrologist Scott Harder added. "In addition, reservoirs across much of the state are near or above their target levels for this time of year, and though lakes in the Savannah Basin are still approximately five to six feet below their targets, water levels have risen substantially in these reservoirs over the past several months."

Regarding the Upstate counties in the Central drought management area, a number of indicators do lend support to a designation of no drought (normal status) at this time. But others indicate the region may not have fully crossed over into that status.

"Periodic rains boost stream flows, and then they fall back to the low end of normal range or below," Spartanburg Water Compliance Manager John Westcott pointed out. "April was a great rainfall month, May was a good one, and the jury is still out for June. For these reasons, we decided to make the more conservative call of incipient drought, the lowest level of drought status for certain counties."

The committee will continue to monitor conditions and will meet during the summer as needed.

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