By Dan Shapley
"Extreme" drought conditions persist, as the drought spreads
Georgia's top water official declared the drought there "historic and unprecedented," as everyone from farmers, business owners and residents struggle through the heat and dryness, and pray for rain. And Georgia doesn't even have the worst of it. Most of Alabama is mired in an "exceptional" drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report. That's the heart of the drought, but "extreme" drought conditions stretch through much of Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. The only thing that could break the drought could be a tropical storm -- though at this point, it may well take a series of tropical storms. The persistent drought has highlighted for one normally wet region an important and often overlooked issue: You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Unlike water in the carefully (if controversially) managed Western states, much of the country lacks a precise understanding of their water resources. Rarely have studies identified how much water flows underground -- the source of much drinking water -- how that water influences and is influenced by local streams and rivers, and how much development a region can sustain. Water is a renewable, but not unlimited and -- obviously -- a necessary resource. Knowing how much you've got is a critical first step for planning, one many communities have not taken. The drought is a wake up call, according to a story in the June 29 Atlanta Journal-Constitution.