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Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:36pm

States Agree To Fund Drought Study

The governors of Georgia and South Carolina have agreed to fund a drought contingency study for the Savannah River.

It will determine how much water gets released from the river's reservoirs during severe droughts.

The study will determine the minimum amount the US Army Corps of Engineers can release from Thurmond Dam in times of low flow.

The Corps had sought the study for years.

But getting the states to agree on their share of the funding had been difficult.

Tracy Robillard of the US Army Corps of Engineers says the last time North Georgia last reeled from lack of rain was during the drought of 2007 and 2008.

"All it takes is looking back in recent history to see that drought is a continuing problem, drought happened, they're cyclical," Robillard says. "So, people might not be thinking about drought now. But we're responsible for the whole basin. We always have to be thinking about drought and whatever could be coming up next."

Today, reservoir levels are above normal.

Hartwell State Representative Alan Powell says Georgia and South Carolina want to avoid a "water war" like the one taking place between three states on the Chattahoochee River.

"I think that the most important thing that came out of this was hands reaching across a state line to work together in a cooperative manner," Powell says.

The Nature Conservancy also played an important role in the agreement.

Darren Davis of the organization's Georgia chapter says, the group provided funds to make it happen.

"The Nature Conservancy wants to be at that table to make sure that they're bringing the best science and that they have the access to the monitoring and the lessons that were learned during the last drought," Davis says. "And how we can take those lessons forward by understanding 'how low to go' so that in the future we make sure there's the right water in the right place at the right time."

The study will update the drought contingency plan based on the last drought.

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