August 8, 2008

Looks Like Rain Helped, but July’s Storms Added Just Drop in Bucket

Don't let your green lawn fool you: Augusta received a slight surplus of rain in July, but Georgia State Climatologist David Stooksbury says extra rain only slowed the drought's progression.

The National Weather Service reported that Augusta ended July with 4.14 inches for the month, .07 inches over average monthly rainfall, but that followed a dry June, Mr. Stooksbury said. Since June 1, Augusta received 5.09 inches of rain.

The normal value is 8.68 inches, leaving Augusta with a 3.59- inch deficit since June 1. Rainfall is measured at Augusta Regional Airport.

With the combination of high temperatures, which cause high evaporation, and low water levels, July's surplus will make little difference in abating the drought, Mr. Stooksbury said.

"The July rain allowed water in the topsoil for the plants to green up a little," he said. "It helped people's psyche, and that's all it did."

Not every portion of the Augusta area received relief.

In Richmond County, Sid Mullis, county coordinator for the University of Georgia Extension Service, said the scattered rain gave relief in areas such as downtown, but others, such as the southern part of the county, stayed fairly dry. Some farmers' corn crop failed.

In Columbia County, Charles Phillips, county coordinator for the extension service, said July rainfall at Thurmond Dam measured 2.41 inches, but 4.06 inches was measured in Dearing, an example of the spotty rain distribution.

Northwest Columbia County has fared worse than Harlem, Evans and Martinez.

The next weeks are crucial for receiving rain, Mr. Stooksbury said, but he's calling for the drought to worsen through September unless tropical weather hits the state.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223

or [email protected]\


LESS IS MORE : Water deeply once a week rather than just watering the surface two or three times per week to encourage deeper root growth. This helps grass withstand drought conditions. Established grass only needs an inch of water each week.

SHUT IT DOWN : A rain shut-off device for your irrigation system costs $30, and will shut off your system while it's raining.

GO NATIVE: Native plants, instead of tropical plants, need less water. Try planting trees such as white oaks, willows or crepe myrtle ; shrubs such as forsythia, gardenias, or Japanese holly; and flowers, such as lantana, blanket flowers, marigolds and salvia .

GO LONG: Grass should be cut at your mower's highest setting, 4 or 5 inches. This will shade the ground and decrease evaporation. a Light touch: Don't over-fertilize or do anything to encourage leaf growth, which takes more water.

DRIP, DRIP: Rather than watering overhead, drip systems deliver water right to the base of the plant, maximizing water efficiency and minimizing evaporation.

Sources: Suzanne Holmes, horticulture agent at the Aiken County Clemson University Cooperative Extension office; David Stooksbury, Georgia's state climatologist %EC%

Originally published by Sarah Day Owen Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.