COVINGTON — North Georgia is currently in a “flash drought,” according to the National Weather Service. A flash drought occurs when there are extended periods of heat and very little rain. These conditions create a drought scenario where dry conditions are likely to spread rapidly and intensify quickly.
The north Georgia area had above average temperatures for the entire month of September and is 6 inches below the area’s average annual rainfall. The soil’s moisture content is so drained that even if it rains, most of it will evaporate before sinking into the soil.
With high heat and little rain expected for seven to 10 days, the areas of severe drought could spread rapidly and perhaps even extreme drought could be showing up soon.
Newton County Water Resources Director James Brown sent out an email Thursday updating Lake Varner’s water levels and trigger point based off Newton County’s Drought/Emergency Contingency Plan.
“Currently, Newton County is in a Stage 1 (Minor Water Condition) in correlation with our Drought/Emergency Contingency Plan with Lake Varner water level of 696.2,” said Brown. “In this condition we will continue to promote water conservation through news and media outlets per the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010.
“The Act allows daily outdoor watering for purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. by anyone whose water is supplied by a water system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division.
“In the event Lake Varner Water Level reaches 692 feet (9 feet below full pool) the county will be upgraded to Stage 2 (Moderate Water Condition) in the Drought/Emergency Contingency Plan. In this condition we will increase media intensity for local TV, radio stations and newspapers. Mandatory water restrictions over and above those mandated by the state of Georgia will be implemented.”
Brown added that one bright spot is the county’s new ability to draw water from the Alcovy River to keep the reservoir level up.
“With the addition of the variable frequency drive (VFD) at the Alcovy River Pump Station, staff at the Cornish Creek facility has the ability to withdraw water from the Alcovy River during times of low river water flow,” he said. “The addition of the VFD has been a huge help to staff in order to keep the Lake Varner water level higher than it would have been if it was not in place.”
Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, said they are in the process of sending out conservation reminders in the next billing cycle.
“We’re encouraging wise water usage and reminding all customers that there are water restrictions currently in place based on the Water Stewardship Act of 2010,” said Hopkins. “We are definitely concerned about the current dry weather, and we are working with our partners to reduce water usage throughout the water system.”