Farmers and residents alike welcomed rains across Alabama, but an Alabama Extension water resource expert says one rain does not break a drought. Dr. Eve Brantley says the drought will persist and water conservation is necessary.
Will 2-3 Inches Make a Dent?
While two to 3 inches of rain is a start, all Alabama counties will continue to have a precipitation deficit.
In Alabama, most droughts begin in the winter and continue into the spring. In the fall of 2016, locations in Alabama have received less than normal precipitation along with higher than normal temperatures.
“Drought comes in stages,” Brantley said. “The first stage is noticing a measureable rainfall deficit. Even then, the impacts may not be felt for a while.”
Brantley said the onset of the current drought came later in the year during typical low precipitation months. So rainfall now, as we head into cooler months with lower plant water demands, gives water more opportunity to soak into the soil.
Two to 3 inches will temporarily increase soil moisture, but it is unlikely to be enough to replenish shallow subsurface water levels.
“Ideally, we need to have a slow soak each week to start replenishing water reserves,” Brantley said. “Streams, rivers and ponds are sustained by groundwater flow. In order to replenish these levels, slow soaking rains are best.”
Brantley likens groundwater and aquifer recharge to keeping money in your savings account.
Water Conservation: Doing Your Part
It is important to recognize one storm event is only a step in the right direction.
“Be appreciative, but be mindful,” she said. “Ask yourself what you can do to make the water we have stretch as far as possible.”
Make choices to discontinue the use of yard irrigation systems or turn off the water between washing and rinsing dishes. These may seem like trivial acts, but they can add up.
Brantley said an article she read recently described drought as a natural disaster we watch unfold.
“We can’t do much in a drought situation to make it rain,” she said. “But, we can make the water we have go farther.”