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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

NEWS RELEASE #99 - September 9, 1999

DNR UPGRADES TO SEVERE DROUGHT STAGE IN 43 SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTIES

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has upgraded drought conditions for 43 counties in the state. Charleston, Horry and Georgetown counties are exempt from the severe drought status due to rains received from Hurricane Dennis. The decision to move to the severe stage was unanimous among members of the S.C. Drought Response Committee at Wednesday's meeting in Columbia. Despite a few widely scattered thunderstorms and some moisture from Hurricane Dennis, most of South Carolina remains severely dry.

This is the first time since 1986 that nearly the entire state has reached severe status, said Hope Mizzell, the state's drought program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "The current drought actually began in May 1998. If not for a soaking rain from Tropical Storm Earl last September, the state would have been in a drought situation that entire 15 months. Since January 1 of this year, most of the Midlands and Upstate are 10 to 14 inches below normal rainfall," Mizzell reported.

The positive news from the meeting of the S.C. Drought Response Committee was that most water suppliers are reporting sufficient supply to meet demands. However, the committee is concerned that even though many are in good shape now, they could start running low during the traditionally dry months of fall. The committee requests that all water suppliers implement their drought ordinances and plans and report their actions to the Drought Information Center in Columbia at (803) 737-0800.

Another result of the meeting is the close monitoring of industries discharging into rivers that cannot properly dilute the contaminants. Freddy Vang, deputy director of DNR's Land, Water and Conservation Division said: "Our biggest concern now is what goes into the current water supply by dischargers." Industries along waterways are permitted to discharge wastes into rivers based on a certain level of streamflow. "But that's where the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials step in, Vang said. "They are doing a good job of monitoring the dischargers." DHEC has sent letters to permit holders asking them to monitor discharges closely. Meanwhile, the committee encourages DHEC and all dischargers to increase monitoring of water quality to avoid any adverse impacts to aquatic life and other stream uses. David Baize, director of DHEC's Water Monitoring Division, says the decision to move to the severe drought stage is appropriate. "We are going to continue working with water suppliers to address any problems or concerns they may have and help dischargers monitor imports to any receiving streams," Baize said.

The agricultural representatives emphasized that rainfall is too late to save many crops. Corn has already been harvested, but rains are needed to save soybean and peanut crops. Dale Linville, agricultural meteorologist with Clemson University, says late rains could benefit fall vegetable crops. "A tropical storm would do wonders for the short-term crops of soybean and peanut and add needed moisture to the ground for the planting of wheat," Linville said.

South Carolina Forestry Commission spokesman Ken Cabe says they, too, are concerned about the lack of ground moisture. "There is a reduced amount of water in swamps and streams which act as moisture barriers for wildfires," Cabe said. "We are also concerned about going into winter and spring, which are the most dangerous times for forest fires in the state, when we're already facing an extended drought." Cabe said.

The committee stressed that everyone from municipal and industrial users to families with their own wells needs to understand the severity of the drought and its impacts. The public is encouraged to conduct voluntary water conservation as a contingency until water levels are restored. Water withdrawers who depend on shallow wells or unregulated streams may experience water shortages.

The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed. The public should contact the center at (803) 737-0800 for more information or if other problems arise. Integrated drought information is available on the DNR's State Climatology Office Internet Web site.

For more information, contact Mike Helfert, state climatologist, or Hope Mizzell, State Drought Program coordinator, in the DNR State Climatology Office at (803) 737-0800 in Columbia.

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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