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