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Posted 3/15/2017

Release no. 17-007


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USACE Public Affairs
251-690-2505

Mobile, Ala. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, is closely monitoring changing drought conditions in the river basins across the region.

Moderate to extreme drought conditions currently exist in the Mobile District, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought indicators monitored by the U.S. Drought Monitor show that “without additional rain, drought conditions are likely to expand and intensify in the region, especially as water demand increases as the transition to spring takes place.”

Drought conditions began to develop in the region last summer and persisted through December. Rainfall that fell in late December and January slightly improved conditions in the region; however, the below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures in February allowed drought conditions to once again expand. Over the last 30 days, the region has only received half of the normal rainfall.

Stream-flow conditions are well below normal in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) basin and the upper Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT), Black Warrior-Tombigbee, and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway basins. A drier than normal February reduced the streamflow conditions to below normal. Pool levels for the headwater projects at Buford, Carter's and Allatoona dams remain below median-pool elevations for this time of the year. Based on current conditions and forecast, Federal ACF project drought operations could be initiated May 1.

Currently in the ACT basin, Drought Level 1 conditions are active, reducing the combined flow from the Alabama Power Company projects on the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers from 4,640 cubic feet per second to 4,200 cubic feet per second.  The projects are operating under the new ACT water control manual approved in May 2015. Federal reservoir conditions are expected to continue to decline in the region without significant rainfall.

“We are currently, and have been for several months, only releasing the minimum amounts necessary to meet downstream needs in order to conserve as much water as possible,” said Mobile District Public Affairs Officer, Lisa Hunter.

The short-term forecast indicates below-normal rainfall for the region while the long-range models indicate an equal chance of normal rainfall over the next three months. With the current long-range outlook, drought conditions are expected to continue over the next several months and may intensify quickly during the summer months. 

Spring is normally a period when flooding is more likely to occur. Because of the low rainfall, there is no flooding currently and a below-normal flood risk is forecasted.

The Mobile District usually receives a significant amount of rainfall during February and March. That rainfall helps refill the reservoirs. The lack of rainfall thus far and the expected low rainfall for April are contributing to the drought conditions.

With the lower lake levels at Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona and Carters Lake, the District staff urges boaters and other recreational users at the Federal reservoirs to use caution, always wear life jackets and be aware that obstructions that are not normally seen can become hazards.