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Rising, but not enough
Drought still in full force

LAWRENCEVILLE - Lake Lanier's water level is more than six feet higher than it was in December, but even that is not enough to pull the region out of drought.

Since Dec. 26, when Lake Lanier reached its lowest point, the water level has risen from 1,050.79 feet above mean sea level to 1,057.26 feet.

Unfortunately, that still leaves Lanier nearly 14 feet below its full summer pool level.

Michael Lapina, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the lake is expected to rise an additional six inches by May 2. Normally, the lake recharges by eight or nine feet during the winter.

If the region was not already in a drought, State Climatologist David Stooksbury said, there would be little reason to worry about the lower rainfall. As it is, a dryer-than-normal spring may continue to impact the lake.

"Lanier is 14 feet below where we would like to see it, and that just does not bode well for the summer," Stooksbury said. "We knew we would have improvements, that's what we saw, but it's not enough of an improvement to reset the clock."

In the summer, Lapina said, Lanier can lose as much as an inch of water each week due to evaporation.

The Corps has taken steps to increase the amount of water kept in the metro Atlanta source, including reducing discharges from Lake Lanier through the end of April. But Stooksbury said the major concern is June through October.

Despite green grass and counties loosening their watering restrictions to allow swimming pools and hand watering, Stooksbury said ground levels remain dry and the drought is showing no signs of letting up.

"This is going to be the new reality, regardless of how much water's in Lanier," he said. "Water conservation is just going to become second nature. It's something we have to do. The old use of water, when I was growing up, those days are gone. I don't think we're going to be able to return to the days of people just using water as they please."