South Carolina Drought Response Committee maintains drought status statewide

Six Upstate counties (Oconee, Pickens, Anderson, Abbeville, McCormick and Edgefield) will remain in severe drought and the remaining counties in moderate drought after the S.C. Drought Response Committee met in Columbia, March 8, to review long-term drought impacts and conditions leading into spring.

“While coverage and rainfall amounts in March have increased, there was not enough improvement in the drought indicators to support a stage upgrade,” explained Ken Rentiers, Drought Committee Chairman and S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Deputy Director for Land, Water, and Conservation. “The committee will reconvene in one month to reevaluate.”

Overall Dec. – Feb.’s rainfall was below normal statewide with the driest conditions from the Midlands to the coast.

For the climatological winter, Dec. 1- Feb. 29, 2012:

The 6th driest for Charleston since 1948 receiving only 3.56” (9.78” long-term average)

The 3rd driest for Columbia since 1948 with 5.27” (10.41 long-term average)

The 9th driest for Florence since 1948 with 5.40” (9.16” long-term average)
Hope Mizzell, S.C. State Climatologist, reported, “Fortunately for the many areas that were the driest earlier this winter, the pattern seems to have changed over the past 3 weeks with many sites reporting 150 percent of normal rainfall. The opposite is true for the Upstate. Portions of the Upstate experienced wet conditions in December – January, but over the last three weeks rainfall totals have been less than 30 percent of normal rainfall.

DNR hydrologist Scott Harder, “We depend on winter rainfall to recharge our surface and groundwater supplies when evaporation rates are low. While recent rains have helped, we haven’t received as much recharge as we would like at this point in the year. We have a few more weeks before residential water demand and evaporation rates will increase significantly. Depending on the rainfall pattern over these next few weeks, some of the major lakes and even smaller ponds that are below normal may not refill this spring.

Marion Rizer, Southern Drought Management Area Committee Representative, stressed, “That from the agricultural perspective it really matters how much rainfall we receive from now throughout the growing season, but because of the dry winter, farmers that irrigate are concerned about water availability since many of their farm irrigation ponds are so low.”

Dennis Chastain, West Drought Committee Representative, commented, “The Upper Portion of the Savannah River Basin received some really good rain throughout early winter, but the beneficial effects are fading and long-term trends indicate the drought will continue.”

The Savannah Basin Lakes are in Drought Trigger Level 2 according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Drought Contingency Plan. Based on projections, lake levels will remain in trigger level two over the next ten weeks. Lake Hartwell and Lake Thurmond are 6.5 feet below their target guide curves for this time of year and Lake Jocassee is 21 feet below its guide curve.

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