Ag, water officials concerned by drought

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2000

Managing Editor

May 17, 2000 10 PM

A severe drought this spring has sparked concerns in the community about everything from water supply to crops.

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According to reports from Troy’s WTBF weather center, abysmally low rainfall has plagued the city and county for several months and has resulted in one of the greatest spring droughts in recent years.

Since the beginning of the year, fewer than 11 inches of rain have fallen inside the city. April and May have been particularly dry with 2.35 inches of rain falling in April and none falling thus far in May.

"To top it off, a dry summer is predicted," said Mike Davis, operations manager for the city of Troy. "This comes after a dry summer last year, a dry winter and a dry spring."

The lack of waterfall has prompted some residents to begin watering their lawns to preserve their greenery, an action that has prompted Davis and the City of Troy Water Department to ask residents to observe even-odd watering.

"We have not had measurable rainfall in the month of May," Davis said. "Because so much water is being used, there has been a decrease in pressure at certain times."

Though the city’s water tanks are holding out fine, Davis said even-odd watering will allow the water supply to rebuild itself so that pressure can be maintained."

"This will allow the pressure from the usage to build back up and will help keep everybody’s water pressure at the right level," he said.

Peak usage times are early in the morning and late in the evening, Davis said. Through even-odd watering, he hopes that pressure levels will build during the non-peak hours enough for pressure to hold when usage is up.

"This is a precautionary move which should help combat low pressure," he said.

Even-odd watering is a practice where homes with even numbers water on even-numbered dates and odd-numbered homes water on odd-numbered dates.

But farmers are less concerned about the water supply than they are about their livelihoods.

The record low rainfall amounts and bad prices for commodities have some farmers running for cover.

Jerry Newby, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said the south part of the state has been drummed by hot, dry weather for the second consecutive year and is coming off of two years of "record low commodity prices and weather-related disasters."

"A lot of people are holding up on planting peanuts because the ground is so hard," Newby said. "But the cattle situation is the toughest thing we’re facing right now. There’s nothing for them to eat; the pastures are dry, and we’ve already missed one-to-two hay cuttings."

In 1999, the Montgomery-Wiregrass area of the state finished the year at nearly a foot under the average annual rainfall. So far this year, the National Weather Service says the area has received less than half of its average 22 inches of rainfall.

The forecast? Not good.

"The good news is that many farmers, even in south Alabama say it’s still no too late for rain to save their crops," Newby said. "The bad news is the latest forecast by the National Weather Service doesn’t look promising."