Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stormy Weather

For those who don't keep up with Southeastern US weather, I'll mention that we're still suffering from a drought here in north Georgia. Last year was an extreme drought, while this year is only a severe drought. There's a difference of degree, but the ultimate result is that we haven't yet recovered from the severe drought of 2007, and as a result this area is undergoing watering restrictions and some lakes are significantly below normal pool.

Drought is a funny thing; we measure it by year, but if you take a slightly bigger picture, the situation looks far less dire. For the ten years from 1998-2008, we are actually above normal rainfall; four of those years were at least a foot above normal.

And it's also measured on a regional basis, which may not reflect locality. I keep a rain gauge here at the house, so I can say with certainty that my immediate area is only 2" below normal rainfall. However, the official records indicate that this region (including my neighborhood) is 13" below normal.

Officially, we have had less than 3/4" of rain in June. So far, I've had 3.3" of rain in June, including 2" last Saturday and 1" spread out over two rainstorms yesterday. But because that rain didn't happen to fall at the one site used as an official weather station, it didn't count.

I don't know why we don't move to a more sophisticated system of multiple weather stations across the region, which are then averaged out to produce the data for the region. It seems like far too little data is being used to compile regional measurements that are then used to make regional decisions.

Then again, there might be a reason for the minimal data. A lot of this region's water problems are due to horrible water management, abominably maintained infrastructure, a lack of reservoirs, and the like; it's probably far easier to use minimal data to support drought restrictions than it is to actually admit that regardless of rainfall amounts we really don't have the water capabilities to support the growth that has occurred in this region over the past decade or so.

At least the local rainfall has been sufficient that my lawn and trees look relatively healthy even though no outside sprinkler use is permitted; even when there was no drought, I tried to go through the entire summer without using sprinklers. That wasn't always possible, but in at least six of the twelve years that we've lived in this house, I've never turned the sprinklers on--and in four other years, I've used them for fewer than ten waterings annually during the entire season. I've never been one to waste water, and I've always remembered that our lawn at our prior house did pretty well in wet years and dry years alike, even though we didn't have any sprinkler system there.

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