Severe Drought in Middle Georgia prompts record water usage in Macon


U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor for Oct. 8 shows areas of Extreme Drought in red, Severe Drought in orange and Moderate Drought in tan.

Most of Middle Georgia is now experiencing Severe Drought conditions, according to United States Drought Monitor data released Thursday.

Since the end of August, only .02 of an inch of rain has fallen at the National Weather Service station at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, which was 3.57 inches below normal for September. No rainfall was recorded in the first 10 days of October.

At the beginning of the year, Georgia showed 94 percent of the state was not even abnormally dry but months without significant rainfall has led to nearly 80 percent of Georgia experiencing dry conditions and nearly 4.4 percent of the state in Extreme Drought.

September was the driest on record for the state which also saw record heat.

Macon had an 11-day string of record highs at the end of September and broke October’s all-time record high when it hit 103 degrees on Oct. 4. Only one day in September was cooler than 90 degrees.

The heat, which continued to be about a dozen degrees above normal in many locations in the Southeast over the past week, is blamed for the flash drought in the region.

Although temperatures have cooled, dry conditions are expected to linger for at least another week in the South.

The heat and drought had lawn sprinklers and garden hoses working overtime across Bibb County.

“We pumped more water this past September than any other September on record,” said Mark Wyzalek, director of environmental compliance and laboratory at the Macon Water Authority.

In the 30-day average, 31.45 million gallons of water per day were pumped from the Javors Lucas reservoir, Wyzalek said.

State permits allow the authority to produce 60 million gallons a day.

The lake, which draws from the Ocmulgee River, remained 93 percent full.

“We have about 5.4 billion gallons in there even with all that demand,” Wyzalek said.

Guy Boyle, executive vice president of business operations for the authority, recently presented a financial report that showed water and sewer revenues up $4.3 million.

“This year is looking exceptionally solid. We’ve had just an incredible demand for water services due to the dry environment,” Boyle said at last week’s authority meeting. “We set new demand levels every single day. It was an incredible demand on the system.”

Even if dry conditions persist, the water authority will be able to meet the demand, Wyzalek said.

“We have more than enough capacity for the foreseeable future for 50 years out, they forecast,” he said.

Macon is located in a large watershed of 2,240 square miles which feeds water into the Ocmulgee River that is drawn into the reservoir.

“The watershed is bigger than the state of Delaware,” Wyzalek said.

-Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected].

U.S. Drought Monitor
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows how dry conditions have worsened in Georgia from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8 after little rain and triple-digit heat.