05/02/08 — Rainfall takes edge off drought

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Rainfall takes edge off drought

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 2, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County residents' lawns might now officially be safe, thanks to the recent rain.

The recent rainfall has moved the county from the moderate drought category to the lowest and least crucial category of all -- abnormally dry, the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council reported Thursday.

Just a little more than two months ago, the county was in exceptional drought -- the highest and worst drought condition.

But even though the county is low on the drought scale now, council Chairman Woody Yonts said its residents might still want to consider maintaining conservation practices, just in case.

The water levels of the county, including ground and surface water and reservoirs, are "looking good," Yonts said. "When you are coming out of a drought, there are still water deficits. Relatively speaking, you're doing well."

The rain might not continue like it has in the past month, he warned, and the county, like many others in the state, might find itself back in water trouble.

"We still need to put up our guard," Yonts said. "Last year, we were at this level. ... and then we had the drought. The rains have made things better, but we are still very concerned. The hot summer is coming, and outdoor water use will pick up. We are just monitoring those trends. We may see some drying up."

So far, Goldsboro residents are keeping conservation in mind, even after mandatory water restrictions were dropped to voluntary status last week. City officials aren't taking any rainfall, or forecasted rainfall, for granted. They will continue to watch the gauges.

"The consumption is about the same (as it was before the recent change to voluntary measures). We are so close to the same that it is hard to see a difference," Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said. "Things are going in the right direction. We will just keep an eye on it."

The drought advisory council currently has five classifications for the drought, and the status of each county is determined based on a number of factors including stream flow, ground water levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, weather forecasts, actual precipitation, the time of year and other relevant factors.

Experts from the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, the Forestry Service and the Public Water Supply Division of the Department of Environmental Resources and the National Drought Auditor gather every Tuesday to decide upon the counties' statuses, Yonts said.

"We've got a great team," he added.

Twelve counties are still in extreme drought, 26 are in severe drought, 21 are in moderate drought and 35 are in abnormally dry conditions, according to U.S. Drought Monitor information.