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Dry winter and spring ahead, despite recent downpour
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David Stooksbury, Georgia's official state climatologist, has predicted a dry winter and spring for 2008. As that is the time of year when soil moisture, groundwater and streams are recharged before the hot summer months, this will more than likely mean a continuation of the drought.

"There is a very good probability that through the spring we will average below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures," Stooksbury said. "That doesn't mean that it's not going to rain. We're going to have some wet spells like we have had in the last week but overall the tendency will be for it to be dry.

"If we have a dry winter and spring, then just given normal summer conditions we will see ourselves quite possibly in a worse predicament than we were in 2007, so it's important for us not to get fooled just because we are having some rain," Stooksbury said.

Though the rains of last week have contributed some much needed water to the county's reservoirs, it has not been enough to make a dent in the drought.

Since Dec. 20, Newton County has received .59 inches of rain according to the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network.

According to Karl Kelley, Newton County Water Resources director, as of Wednesday Lake Varner was at 693 feet above sea level or at close to 50 percent full. City Pond is full at 25 feet.

At current usage levels, Kelley estimated that the county had 280 days of drinking water left.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, which maps real-time stream flow compared to historical stream flow around the county. Alcovy River was at a record low stream flow of 24 cubic feet per second as of Thursday afternoon. The previous record low for Alcovy River was in 1989 at 81 cubic feet per second. The median stream flow of Alcovy River for this time of year is 197 cubic feet.

 According to the latest totals available on the amount of water pumped and treated by the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, as of Tuesday NCWSA had decreased the total amount of water it pumped and treated for the month of December by 5.7 percent over last winter's average. Governor Sonny Purdue has required 61 north Georgia counties, including Newton, to reduce their water consumption levels by 10 percent.

NCWSA's water consumption average for the month of November was down 2.4 percent on a per customer basis.

"As of Christmas, we've been down if you exclude the one day of the 19th (when) there was a water main break. We've been below last year's production since Dec. 10," Kelley said. "Our customers are doing pretty good."