A recent edict by Gov. Nathan Deal means that residential water use in Dawson County will now be restricted as the region's drought has begun to affect the water supply.
Last Thursday, Deal issued a Level 2 Drought Response Designation for 52 counties in the state, including Dawson, Lumpkin, Forsyth and Hall Counties. Fifty-eight counties have been designated as Level 1, according to a press release from the governor's office on Nov. 17.
"We urge these communities to act accordingly, use good judgment and avoid outdoor burning and watering while we continue to work with the Environmental Protection Division and pray for rain across the state," Deal said.
During a Level 2 Drought Response, outdoor landscape watering is only allowed two days a week and is determined by odd and even numbered addresses. Even numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. Odd numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.
Some outdoor water uses are prohibited, and include washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks, water for ornamental purposes, such as fountains, the use of fire hydrants except for firefighting and public safety, non-commercial washing of vehicles, non-commercial pressure washing and fundraising car washes.
The drought response and restrictions will likely last as long as the state is experiencing such severe drought. The EPD said Northeast Georgia is in its 21st week of drought.
And according to the National Weather Service, the Gainesville area has received less than 2 inches of rain since Sept. 1.
"Today's declaration is driven by an extended period of little or no rain and increasing dryness in the impacted areas," said EPD Director Richard Dunn. "What's more, there is little hope for relief as weather forecasters expect an unusually warm, dry winter across most of the state."
The drought is dangerously affecting water levels in Lake Lanier, which are at the lowest they've been in nearly four years at 1,061.06 feet below sea level as of Nov. 22. The summer full pool is 1,071 feet, and the winter full pool is 1,070 feet.
The Army Corps of Engineers projects the level to reach 1,060.2 feet by Dec. 8. During the 2012-13 drought, Lanier dropped to 1,056.37 feet.
As of press time, the National Weather Service forecast a 30 percent chance of showers tomorrow afternoon and no further rain chances until Nov. 27. The Sunday forecast only gives a 20 percent chance, followed by a 30 percent chance on Nov. 28.
Fires still rage in northern Georgia
The current drought situation has served only to increase the potential for wildfires to spring up due to the dryness of fuel and the low humidity.
Shawn Alexander, district ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission, said that in the month of October the Forestry Commission responded to 362 fires in the Coosa District, which includes Dawson County.
Normally, he said, the month's average is 30.
Several large wildfires in the northern regions of Georgia have been burning throughout the month, leading to a smoky haze that has reached down to metro Atlanta and beyond.
The closest large wildfire broke out earlier this month on Campbell Mountain near Lumpkin County, but was 100 percent contained as of Nov. 14.
The largest wildfire, the Rough Ridge fire in Murray and Fannin counties, has been burning for over a month and has consumed 27,870 acres and is currently 59 percent contained. The fire is located in the Cohutta Wilderness.
The Rough Ridge fire is one of nine large wildfires currently active in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, which have issued a total fire ban throughout the forest, including all campfires or grills.
Smoke from wildfires has intermittently blanketed the county, and continues to spread throughout the region. The state EPD air quality rating was rated good for Nov. 22.
The EPD warned that smoky conditions could lead to unhealthy air quality for all groups, and they urge everyone to limit prolonged outdoor exposure while smoky conditions continue.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest provided the following update on the mountain fires, as of Nov. 21 it:
• Rock Mountain Fire: Rabun and Towns counties, 12,779 acres, 30 percent contained in the Tallulah River Road, Straw Mountain Area.
• Timber Ridge Fire: Rabun County, 888 acres, 95 percent contained southeast of Clayton.
• Burrell and Burrells 42 Fires: Rabun County, 185 acres, 100 percent contained on Ga. 28 near Burrells Ford.
• Rough Ridge Fire: Murray and Fannin counties. 27,870 acres, 55 percent contained, Cohutta Wilderness.
• Strawberry Mountain Fire: Walker County, 477 acres, 100 percent contained, Strawberry Mountain near Manning Mill Creek.
• Raven Fire: Union County, 20-plus acres, 100 percent contained, Raven Cliffs Wilderness.
• Campbell Mountain Fire: Union County, 8 acres, 100 percent contained, northeast of Suches.
• Campbell Mountain Fire: Union County, 22 acres, 100 percent contained, Campbell Mountain.
• Chimney Top Fire: Union County, 3 acres, 100 percent contained, approximately 1.5 miles west of Brasstown Bald Visitor Center in the Brasstown Wilderness.