Dealing with drought in Georgia
Lack of rain in Atlanta can cause even the red clay of Georgia to scorch and crumble.
By Susan Deily-Swearingen
While the consequences of a drought in Georgia are not as immediately obvious as those of a hurricane, flood or a tornado, the effects can be equally devastating. Exactly what a drought is varies from the point of view of the person describing it. For a person such as a farmer, who is dependent on a consistent source of rainwater, even a brief, few-week interruption in the supply can mean drought. However, a meteorologist would need to consult statistics from earlier periods to determine if precipitation patterns are sub-normal for that period. For people dependent on Georgia's many rivers, streams and creeks, they need only to look at falling levels of the creek beds to tell you that Georgia is experiencing a drought.
Problems caused by drought
According to an article on droughts in Georgia by David Emory Stooksbury, "Since 1960, Georgia's population has increased from near 4 million inhabitants to over 8 million while the water resources have remained constant." This means that there is greater stress on water resources designed to serve fewer people. When a drought occurs, there is even less water to serve this increased population.
Drought in Georgia is a normal part of life in the state. It is a cyclical pattern. Again, according to Stooksbury, "on average, Georgia experiences a drought lasting three or more years about once every 40 years."
These regular droughts kill off small farms that cannot afford to lose the crops they have left and cannot afford more sophisticated irrigation systems. A drought puts Georgia's forests in the precarious position of being at greater risk of wildfires. It increases food prices in the state and on the foods exported from the state. It means there may not always be enough water to serve municipal demands, and water restrictions could become necessary.
Steps to conserve water
One of the first steps taken when a drought occurs is to decrease the amount of water released from federal water reservoirs. The consequences of this action are that people who use area lakes for their getaways and summer fun will notice that lake levels are significantly lower, as they are not being fed by the federal water supply or a regular stream of precipitation. Also, people who rely on hydropower for their electrical supply could experience an interruption in service if the problem becomes too severe, because the amount of water available to service the hydropower turbines will also be decreased.
During a drought, Georgia's Water Stewardship Act of 2010 prohibits watering your garden or lawn any time except during the hours of 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is after the heat of the day has mostly passed. The water is less likely to evaporate and more likely to stay in the ground, where it will do the most good.
If you are a gardener, one way to avoid the pain of watching the fruit of all your labor wither and die is to plant drought-resistant plants. Once a plant is well-established, many varieties can weather the lack of water for quite a while even in the Georgia heat. They can do this in part because one of the many talents of plants is using their roots to find their way to water even when us surface dwellers can't. Plants that are drought-resistant will be marked as such on their packaging at your local Atlanta nursery.
Rain barrels also make an excellent investment during a period of drought, catching and reusing the little bit of precipitation that does fall. A rain barrel can be anything that is open to the sky and able to hold water. Many people put the barrel directly under a downspout to increase the chances of catching the most water. Barrels designed specifically for this purpose even come with a tap at the bottom for releasing a little water at a time without having to turn the entire vessel upside down.
The benefit of the barrel is obvious. The rainwater is stored for a non-rainy day and can be used to water the garden, wash household items or even boil and cook with if need be. Commercially available rain barrels are available at local garden and home improvement stores. You can also find them on the Internet. They average around $80 to $120 each. However, it is easy to make one on your own by repurposing an old milk jug and a funnel, or a large plastic bin with a lid. Poke holes in the top to allow the water to run in but prevent evaporating water from running out.
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