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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

SPECIAL NEWS RELEASE #00- 23 May 24, 2000


The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has upgraded the drought status for all 46 counties with 27 now ranked "moderate," the second level, and the others "incipient,"the first level of drought.

S.C. Drought Response Committee which met today (Wednesday) in Columbia voted unanimously to upgrade the drought status across the entire state based on below normal precipitation, record low streamflow levels, agricultural stress and the potential threat of forest fires. Committee members emphasized their concern that South Carolina is facing another year of drought with all indications that its severity will only intensify.

An incipient drought declaration issued last year on October 21, was upgraded to "moderate" for Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Clarendon, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, McCormick Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York. A moderate drought declaration, the second of four drought levels specified in the Drought Response Act of 1985, means that drought conditions have continued to deteriorate and are expected to persist.

An "incipient drought," the first drought level, was declared for the remaining counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Chesterfield, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg.

According to the South Carolina Agricultural Statistics Service, fields across the state are in dire need of rain. Dry soils have stalled many planting operations. Fields that have been planted are showing little growth due to the dry soils. Corn is wilting in several areas. Soil moisture ratings across the state have declined to 29% very short, 62% short and 9% adequate.

Dale Linvill, agricultural meteorologist with Clemson University, explained that the maximum amount of available soil moisture (top 2 ft.) for South Carolina ranges from 11/2 to 3 inches. At present the moisture available for plants is less than 10% of these values.

South Carolina Forestry Commission spokesman Ken Cabe reported that as of May 24 wildfire occurrences are still fairly low, but control difficulties are increasing due to hot, dry conditions. Very intense burning observed on recent fires is causing significant damage to the affected forest. If the drought continues, lack of moisture alone is expected to take a toll on forest growth and vigor.

David Baize, Water Monitoring division director with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DNR) reported that his agency has issued letters to all water system owners and dischargers requesting their attention to the drought conditions. The discharge of wastewater into low flowing streams should be regulated to avoid adverse impacts to the receiving streams, aquatic life and other stream uses.

Rod Cherry, hydrologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), expressed his concern that water withdrawers who depend on wells or unregulated streams may experience water shortages and deteriorating water quality in the near future as water storage continues to decrease in the weeks ahead.

Both DNR and DHEC stress to the public and water suppliers that while water restrictions are not popular, early and effective use of voluntary restrictions may be necessary to protect water integrity and quality.

The Drought Response Committee encourages local water suppliers to implement drought response ordinances and plans for their area. Water suppliers are requested to send copies of any notice of voluntary or mandatory reductions to the Drought Information Center. 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.

For more information, contact State Drought Program coordinator Hope Mizzell 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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