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Local officials urge conservative use of water

It's dry: bone dry in many areas of McDuffie County. And so are many other counties across Georgia and the Southeast.

The culprit: lack of rain.

One need only drive to areas of Clarks Hill Lake in McDuffie County to view evidence of just how badly rainfall is needed. Many parts of the lake, which normally would be under water, can now be seen as land. Other areas look like islands, while shorelines have dramatically changed, too.

It also has become more difficult for fishermen and others wanting to launch their boats from area ramps. Some boat ramps have even been closed as a result of drought conditions and the water level being so low.

Predictions from weather experts call for little rain between now and the next two to three months. In fact, water levels at the lake could drop another five feet during that period if those predictions hold true.

Stumps are becoming an ever growing danger on the waterways. This past weekend in the Raysville area, at least two bass boats sustained motor damages after striking stumps in the water, reported a worker at Raysville Marina.

"It's getting more and more dangerous to be out there on the water," Mac Walker said. "If I had one of those expensive bass boats, I wouldn't think about putting it into the water with the level this low."

Boats that had been docked at sites where water once existed are now sitting on dry land: yards away from the closest water in many areas of the lake. At the Raysville Marina, a pontoon could be seen docked on mostly dry land on Monday, while another boat sat across from it completely out of water.

McDuffie County residents are fortunate in many ways. For the drought isn't threatening water supply as it is in other parts of the state: the Metro Atlanta area being one of the most critical when it comes to reservoirs being depleted of water.

"We've got plenty of water right now, but I think it's very important that we take conservation measures," Thomson Mayor Robert E. Knox told members of the city council last Thursday night.

Those getting their water from the Thomson-McDuffie County Water System, as well as those getting water from wells should be involved in practicing conservation, according to George Nichols, director of the Thomson-McDuffie County Water System.

"That's what is needed at this time in McDuffie County," Mr. Nichols said during a recent interview at Big Creek Water Treatment Plant in the Raysville Community.

Big Creek Water Treatment Plant Manager Chuck Cumber echoes that sentiment.

"We need to conserve water until we get caught back up naturally," Mr. Cumber said.

Already, McDuffie County, along with a number of other counties in the state, is listed as a Level 2 drought status. Nearby Lincoln County, which borders McDuffie from the Raysville Community, is listed as a Level 4 drought area.

The difference between the two levels is that drought conditions haven't gotten quite as bad in McDuffie County as they have in Lincoln and some other areas in the northern third of the state.

A Level 2 declaration, which includes McDuffie County, means strict guidelines on the use of outdoor water.

* Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 12 midnight to 10 a.m. Odd-numbered addresses are those whose last numbers are: 1, 3, 5,7 and 9.

* Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12 midnight to 10 a.m. Even-numbered addresses are those whose last numbers are: 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8.

* Residents who use wells also should use the odd-even watering periods, Mr. Nichols said.

As for Fridays, no one should water: allowing a build up of water.

"We've got to get some rain, there's no question about it; but as far as our water system goes, we're OK right now," Mr. Cumber said.

Mr. Nichols said McDuffie Countians are fortunate in the sense that drinking water is pulled from two different watersheds: Clarks Hill Lake and Usry's Pond, which is situated on 150 acres located off Wire Road in south McDuffie County.

Clarks Hill Lake currently is 319.6 feet, he explained. Under normal conditions, it should be at 331 feet. Usry's Pond, meanwhile, is only eight inches below normal.

Area meteorologists report that McDuffie County and surrounding counties are shy of rainfall by 12 1/4 inches.

Some counties across the state have been declared Level 4, which means a critical shortage in water and restricts most outdoor watering.

"The drought of 2007 has reached historic proportions, so it's critical that we take immediate action to ensure that Georgians have a sufficient supply of safe drinking water," according to Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Director Carol A. Couch. "All of the counties included in the Level 4 declaration are located in areas of either exceptional or extreme drought."

Should the situation worsen, then McDuffie County could be added to a Level 4 status.

"We don't anticipate that happening," Mr. Nichols said.



Web posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007













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