With a relatively dry fall, the rest of South Carolina has joined the Edisto River basin in the first stage of drought.
The state Drought Response Committee voted Thursday to change the status for 37 counties to incipient drought, the first of four stages. That change makes little difference in the way water resources are managed, but it means there are rising signs of drought conditions, said Hope Mizzell, the state’s climatologist.
Nine counties in the upper Edisto River basin were declared in incipient drought in September. With typically low rainfall in the fall, the rest of the state is now drier than normal.
The Savannah River lakes have dropped remarkably since Aug. 1 – Jocassee down 10 feet, Thurmond down about four feet. Most lakes on the Savannah have hit drought levels in recent weeks.
While other lakes and rivers in the state are at normal levels or only slightly below them, drought committee members decided to change the status to incipient to recognize that levels have been dropping.
Mizzell noted that most of the state should get at least half an inch of rain Sunday and Monday, and some areas will get more than an inch. That will help, but the state likely will need a wetter than normal winter to get back to non-drought levels.