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South Carolina State Climatology Office
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South Carolina Drought News Release

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Land, Water and Conservation Division
South Carolina Drought Response Program
Department of Natural Resources News (803) 734-4133

February 8, 2001

Below normal winter rainfall concerns many state officials as South Carolina enters its fourth consecutive year of drought. South Carolina has been plagued with drought conditions since June 1998, the longest consecutive drought period since the 1950s. Hydrologists reported that this is the third winter without the necessary rainfall needed to recharge our groundwater and lakes. State officials are concerned that we will see an even greater occurrence of ponds and wells going dry this spring and summer than last year. Homeowners with wells are encouraged to secure alternate sources of water in case they are faced with a dry well.

Masaaki Kiuchi, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hydrologist, reported that streamflows across the state are very low, running at or less than 10 percent of their normal flow for this time of year. Lake levels are also very low due to the lack of precipitation. Boaters should use extreme caution while navigating on rivers and lakes due to the low levels.

According to the State Climatology Office, there is no indication that the drought conditions will be significantly alleviated during the next three months. Hope Mizzell, Drought Program Coordinator, reported that there is a 30 inch rainfall deficit since June 1998 for many areas of South Carolina. Mizzell stressed that the drought continues to take a large toll on many of South Carolina's resources especially tourism, forestry and agriculture. It may take years for South Carolina's ecosytems to completely recover from this drought

Ken Cabe, of the S.C. Forestry Commission, reported that more than half the wildfires so far this year were caused by careless debris burning. This month alone, escaped debris burns have killed one person, destroyed several homes, and damaged numerous other structures. Forestry Commission fire managers say January through mid-April is the most dangerous time for wildfires in South Carolina. Anyone planning to burn out-of-doors is reminded to follow all state and local outdoor burning laws.

Alfred Vang, deputy director of the DNR Land, Water and Conservation Division, is concerned that South Carolina may experience more widespread water shortages than during the past three drought years due to the compounded effects. Water withdrawers who depend on wells or unregulated streams may experience water shortages and deteriorating water quality as water storage continues to decrease. Vang also emphasized that the discharge of wastewater into low flowing streams should be closely monitored to avoid adverse impacts to the receiving streams, aquatic life and other stream uses.

The official drought declaration status remains in effect since October 26, 2000, when the Drought Response Committee conducted their last meeting. A "moderate" drought declaration is in effect for Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Clarendon, Colleton, Dorchester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Hampton, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York counties. The remaining eleven counties are in an incipient drought, the first drought level. The committee is expected to convene within the next few weeks to review the deteriorating conditions.

The DNR is increasing monitoring activities and is notifying water suppliers of the potential water shortage conditions. The public should contact Hope Mizzell, State Drought Program Coordinator, in the DNR State Climatology Office at (803) 737?0800 in Columbia for more information.

Find out more about the State Climatology Office at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/climate/sco/ or by calling (803) 734-9100.

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