SPARKS ANNOUNCES DROUGHT MONITORING SYSTEM
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks announced Thursday that a Drought Monitoring System will be established throughout Alabama. This will be the first time that such a system has been implemented in the state.
Drought is a devastating climatic condition that affects every aspect of life. Alabama experiences a severe or extreme drought approximately every 13 years with the duration of each drought lasting from one to seven years. Drought and its effects can be catastrophic for farmers, industries, water supply and wildlife.
The ability to accurately determine the magnitude and to predict the onset or duration of a drought event is extremely important. This can be accomplished by drought monitoring.
A network of five observation wells that transmit ground water level data on a real-time basis through satellite telemetry will begin operating July 1, 2006. Four wells will be located in Baldwin, Dekalb, Franklin/Lawrence, and Covington/Coffee counties. The fifth well will be in central Alabama. The locations were chosen because they are constructed in aquifer recharge areas and are in areas of extensive agricultural land use. The ultimate goal of this project is to establish a network of 25 wells over a five-year period which will provide information that allows observation of the onset and duration of drought conditions in ground water.
"This drought monitoring system will provide valuable information that can be used to determine when a drought may occur and for how long," said Sparks. "It could be a tremendous help to anyone in the agricultural industry that relies on water to grow or produce products. As we increase the number of wells, we improve our chances of helping to prepare for drought and maybe even prevent it in the future."
Approximately 40 percent of Alabama's water supplies are withdrawn from the state's ground water resources providing approximately 100 percent of the water used for rural domestic supplies and 34 percent of the water used for public supplies. In addition, more than 33 percent of the water used for agricultural purposes is withdrawn from wells. Much of the flow in streams and the water in lakes and wetlands are sustained by the discharge of ground water particularly during periods of dry weather.
A comprehensive drought monitoring program utilizes temperature, evaporation, precipitation, soil moisture, surface water levels and shallow ground water levels to accurately monitor drought conditions. No single data set is adequate for this purpose. Ground water monitoring is a vital component of a system that assesses indications of drought to assist with water management decisions.
Natural discharge from shallow aquifers provides base flow to streams and sustains the water in lakes and wetlands particularly during periods of dry weather. Therefore, declining shallow ground water levels are important indicators of drought conditions. This network will provide data that allow observation of the onset of drought conditions and indications of the duration and severity of drought.
The water-level data from these wells will be automatically collected and transmitted by satellite telemetry every four hours to the USGS and displayed on the USGS Alabama Water Science Center web site al.water.usgs.gov. This data will also be a part of the USGS Ground Water Climate Response Network http://watermonitor.gov/.
The purpose and objectives of this project will be to establish a network of continuous-recording water level monitoring wells in selected areas in Alabama to monitor the effects of drought and other climate variability on ground water levels as part of a comprehensive drought monitoring effort. In addition, the system can monitor short-term variability and long-term trends in water levels to determine the effects of climatic variability on ground water recharge and storage.
Several governmental agencies have been working together to establish the statewide drought monitoring system. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority, the Office of Water Resources at ADECA, the Geological Survey of Alabama, and the United States Geological Survey are funding the project.