Newton County is no longer under "drought" conditions, but that doesn’t mean the county will no longer have drought restrictions.
On April 3, State Climatologist David Stooksbury declared that all of Georgia is out of drought conditions, except for the Lake Lanier and Hartwell basins, which remain in a moderate drought.
March and April are normally Georgia’s wettest months, but this year’s rainfall has been more plentiful than usual. Since the beginning of March Newton County has received 12.69 inches of rain, more than 3 inches above average amounts. It’s rained 12 out of 23 days since March 25.
Assistant State Climatologist Pam Knox said the above average rainfall was because of the cool La Niña weather currents. The system helped Georgia recover from below average rainfall in January and February.
Despite the recent plethora of rain, water use in Georgia and Newton County will probably be relaxed only slightly. This is because the term "drought" only refers to the amount of rainfall an area is receiving; it has nothing to do with water levels, Knox said. For example, although stream flows are high at most rivers and most reservoirs area at full levels, ground water levels remain low because of the prolonged nature of the drought. She said water use restrictions will probably be a permanent way of life in Georgia.
"Drought caused a permanent change in how people use water. In Athens we cut use by 25 percent," she said. "People learn to use a lot less water than they used to; they learn they don’t need as much."
The levels at Lake Varner and City Pond have been back at full levels for a couple of months, because reservoirs naturally fill up during the winter, unless an area is experience severe drought said Karl Kelley, director of the Newton County Water Resources Department. Those levels naturally dip during the summer, because of increased use and increased evaporation due to higher temperatures.
During these times, the reservoirs often pump in water from nearby rivers, like the Alcovy River in Newton County. If the county is in drought, the reservoirs are not allowed to pump from the river, so increased rainfall through the next couple of months will help maintain river and reservoir levels. Rainfall is expected to decrease over the next few months, but Newton County might continue to see higher than average rainfall in the near future. Knox said severe weather is likely to be more prevalent this year, as a result of the increased rain and moisture.