GAINESVILLE - The Lake Lanier Association has released a letter urging the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Corps of Engineers to extend maximum efforts to restore and keep Lake Lanier at full pool level.
In the letter Lake Lanier Association Executive Director Joanna Cloud referred to predictions that the surface level of Lake Lanier could drop as much as five more feet over the next several months. Historically, September and October are among the months receiving the least rainfall in our area.
"When determining drought response levels, EPD continuously monitors multiple drought indicators including rainfall, streamflow, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, and soil moisture. All of these indicators have shown significant improvement over the past few months," an emailed response from EPD to AccessWDUN stated. "The condition of Lake Lanier is an important indicator, which EPD monitors very closely, and will consider prior to any change in the drought response level. Regardless of drought level, EPD always reminds water users of the benefits of water conservation and urges all Georgians to be good stewards of our water resources."
The contents of the Lake Lanier Association letter are below:
The Lake Lanier Association urges the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Corps of Engineers to use all available tools to restore and keep Lake Lanier at its full pool level.
Due to the drought, Lake Lanier has not been at full pool since the spring of 2016 and continued to drop during the normal winter recharge season when the lake level normally increases, resulting in an elevation 10 feet below full pool. Predictions were for a drop of another five feet over the summer months. Fortunately, and due to increased rainfall south of Metro Atlanta, the Corps of Engineers was able to curtail releases from Lake Lanier which have resulted in gradual increases in the lake through July, 2017.
However, since July 20th, the lake has started dropping again and the forecast is for it to drop another 2 – 3 feet before increased rainfall during the anticipated winter recharge season begin to hopefully restore Lanier to full pool. But, like last year, the full effect of a normal winter recharge season might not happen.
The association believes that ‘hope is not a strategy’. We urge all agencies to adopt a strategy of keeping Lake Lanier as full as possible at all times due to the critical dependency on the lake for Metro Atlanta water supply and downstream water requirements. Coming out of a drought is not a smooth process. When water supplies are marginal, every effort should be made to sustain them through the period of uncertainty.
One of the tools available to accomplish this strategy is the Drought Level adopted by Georgia Environmental Protection Division. While there are numerous factors that influence the designated drought level, the amount of water stored in Lake Lanier to meet the demands placed on it, should be a major contributor to that decision. By reducing the Drought Level from a Level 2, the signal would be sent to all water users, including residential and commercial, that there is no more need to conserve water while just the opposite is the case.
While the drought might be officially over, the impact of the drought is not. The association believes that decisions should made that retain all available tools to conserve Lake Lanier levels for water supply purposes for all of Metro Atlanta.