15 SC counties, entire Lowcountry, now facing drought conditions

15 SC counties, entire Lowcountry, now facing drought conditions
All of the Lowcountry is officially in an incipient drought, the lowest stage of drought conditions. (Source: Pixabay)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State climate and water utility officials are urging people to take steps to conserve water after a state committee declared 15 counties, including all of the Lowcountry, to be under a drought Tuesday.

Fifteen South Carolina Counties are under an "incipient" drought, the lowest stage of drought.

The counties are Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Beaufort, Williamsburg, Georgetown, Orangeburg, Jasper, Hampton, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Aiken and Edgefield.

Fifteen South Carolina counties are under an incipient drought.
Fifteen South Carolina counties are under an incipient drought. (Source: SC State Climate Office)

An incipient drought is the lowest stage of drought the South Carolina Drought Response Committee indicates and means conditions are drier than normal. As soil moisture declines, water demand increases.

As conditions worsen, the next level would be a moderate drought, followed by severe and extreme. The committee declared the drought during its meeting on Tuesday, according to a release from the state’s climate office.

State Climatologist Hope Mizzell says rainfall over the last 60 days has ranged from 3.5 inches at Mount Pleasant to more than 17 inches at Sunset in Pickens County.

While most locations across the Upstate have received excessive rainfall since Jan. 1, such as Greenville County where Slater-Marietta logged 39.52 inches, some Lowcountry areas have received less than 10 inches of rain.

S.C. Forestry Commission Forest Protection Chief Darryl Jones asked everyone to be careful if they conduct outdoor burning during dry periods.

With the low rainfall predicted for the next few weeks, we expect to see initial attack for wildfires increase in late May and into June," Jones said. “Fighting wildfires when we have high temperatures is very difficult and creates additional risks for firefighters.”

Mount Pleasant Waterworks has already moved into the first level of drought based on their internal response plan, General Manager Clay Duffie said.

“The lack of rainfall is causing irrigation demands to increase so we are encouraging businesses and residents to make sure their irrigation systems are working properly and to not over irrigate,” Duffie said. “This time of year, we often find residents are putting two to four times as much water as needed on their landscape.”

Colleton Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner Emeritus Marion Rizer said they are asking people to conserve water as much as they can.

The website SCDrought.com, run by the South Carolina State Climate Office, offers several suggestions to help conserve water:

  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded.
  • Turn off the faucet while shaving, brushing teeth and washing.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Flush toilets less often.
  • Install water-saving devices on faucets.
  • Water lawn rarely and in the early morning.
  • Plant native speces and use mulch in landscaping.
  • Check regularly for leaks.
  • Use car washes that recycle water.
  • Use a broom to clean the driveway.

The site states people following the above tips could save a total of 50 gallons of water per day. For example, turning off water while brushing teeth or shaving could save 10 gallons of water per person, per day, while cutting shower time from 10 minutes to five could reduce water usage by 12.5 gallons per shower.

The committee will continue to monitor the weather and will meet again as needed, according to a news release from the state climate office.

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