Southeastern Groundwater Reserves and Rivers Dry Up as Drought Continues

USGS research teams launched project to measure water levels and assess ecological impact

Streamflow and groundwater conditions in southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama continue to worsen this month. Waterways in many of the regions are setting new record lows, with gauges on the Flint, Suwannee, Ochlocknee, Alapaha and Apalachicola rivers recording the lowest water levels in their histories due to lower-than-normal rainfall. Groundwater levels were below normal and set new records in much of southern Georgia, with some wells going dry.

To determine the impact of the drought on the water resources and ecology of southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama, almost two dozen researchers from three U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water science centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia will conduct field studies in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Aucilla-Suwannee-Ochlockonee river basins this month.

"This is the first effort of its kind ever completed during the peak of the summer irrigation season," said Brian McCallum, assistant director of the USGS Georgia Water Science Center. "This effort will help us see hydrologic and ecological conditions at their most stressed condition."

USGS field crews will visit more than 200 stream sites and 400 private and public supply wells to assess streamflow decline and drops in groundwater levels. Additionally, field crews will collect water quality information that will help determine the drought's impact on ecological conditions in the region. Later in the summer, they will visit the same stream sites to assess populations of fish and mussels affected by drought conditions. The work is being completed as part of the USGS WaterSmart initiative, a program to assess sustainability of water supplies in the ACF basin.

Residents interested in monitoring water levels across the state or across the country have several USGS tools available for keeping informed: WaterAlert, WaterWatch and GroundWaterWatch.

The USGS WaterAlert service sends e-mail or text messages when certain parameters, as measured by a USGS real-time data-collection station, exceed user-definable thresholds which may vary at each gauge. For example, users can input their favorite water gauge and receive updates on water level, streamflow, water temperature or salinity.

The USGS WaterWatch and GroundWaterWatch websites display maps, graphs and tables describing real-time, recent and past streamflow and groundwater conditions for the U.S., with real-time data updated on an hourly basis.

Used in conjunction with the WaterAlert notification system, these systems provide a comprehensive tool for keeping track of the hydrologic conditions in Georgia.

U.S. Geological Survey

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