As Georgia enters fall, concerns about the current drought’s impacts on waterresources, wildfire potential and agriculture are mounting.The Palmer Drought Severity Index, a measure of hydrological drought, indicates thatsouthwest and west central Georgia are having an extreme drought. Drought Links PDSI and CMI data from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yield prospects are reduced by excessively dry soils in southeast, central, and eastcentral Georgia. Abnormally dry soils are found in south central, north central andnortheast Georgia.Bright SpotsThe tourism industry in the north Georgia mountains will be one of the few benefactorsfrom the drought. The leaves this fall should have average to above average color. Thewine industry should also benefit from the dry weather. Updated weather data at the UGA Automated Environmental Monitoring web site. Photo: Dan Rahn The rest of Georgia is in severe drought except in the northwest and north centralregions, which are classified as being in moderate drought.Low River FlowsAccording to the U.S. Geological Survey, several Georia rivers are running near recordlow flows. These include the Flint, Ocumulgee, Altamaha, Etowah, and Tallulah Rivers.Low river flows can imperil municipal water supplies, raise the water temperature,decrease dissolved oxygen levels and increase the concentration of pollutants. Near thecoast, low river flows allow increased saltwater movement upstream and increased salinityin coastal marshes.Wildfires a ThreatWildfires are also a concern across Georgia. The Georgia Forestry Commission has issuedan advisory against outdoor burning.”If it’s absolutely necessary to burn outside, extreme precautions should betaken, because Georgia is undergoing an extreme drought,” said Alan Dozier, GFC Chiefof Forest Protection. “A single spark can set off a wildfire that could burn hundredsof acres.”Because of the drought, all GFC firefighting crews and cooperators are on 24-houralert. In August, GFC reports twice the normal number of forest fires, with 3,522 acresburned.Crops’Condition DecliningMajor crops continued to deteriorate last week, according to the Georgia AgriculturalStatistics Service. GASS rated 47 percent of the soybean crop, 40 percent of the cotton,59 percent of pastures and 25 percent of pecans were rated in poor to very poor condition.Most of the major crops in Georgia have already been made or ruined by the drought.Many farmers don’t want rain now, because it would delay harvesting. Wind from a tropicalstorm would reduce yields by damaging crops that are ready for harvest.Rain Would Help SomeHowever, rainfall would be beneficial for beef and dairy farmers. It would improvepastures, decrease the need for supplemental feeding and possibly allow for another hayharvest.Rain is needed for fall plantings, too. Most soils in the state are too dry for goodseed germination. GASS reports that moisture is short to very short in 81 percent of thestate’s soils.The Crop Moisture Index rates the soils in southwest Georgia as extremely dry, withmost dryland crops ruined. Soils in west central and northwest Georgia are severely dry,with potential dryland yields severely cut. The drought has caused unusually low river flows, as seen in this normally shallow, but not dry, Ogeechee River section in east central Georgia. Drought updates for Georgia and the Southeast at the UGA drought Web site. Or call your county Extension Service agent.