LAWRENCEVILLE - Lake Lanier's water level has risen more than two feet since the beginning of the year despite recent increases in the amount of water released from Buford Dam.
The lake level was 1,053.54 feet on Tuesday, still more than 17 feet below its full pool level. But that level is up from a record low - 1,050.79 feet, set Dec. 26 - and the lake's Jan. 1 level of 1,051.31 feet.
Lisa Coghlan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile, Ala., said those water levels are higher despite a recent increase in the amount of water released downstream.
More water has been released to increase the flow on Peachtree Creek, where the Corps has a flow requirement of 750 cubic feet per second, Coghlan said. Release levels on Lanier have risen from 628 cubic feet per second Feb. 1 to 1,088 March 3. That translates to an increase of 297.16 million gallons of water released daily.
Coghlan said those changes should cause the lake to start dropping again. Over the next four weeks, water levels are expected to drop to 1,052.7 feet due to releases and evaporation.
"We're still in a drought, we're still in drought conditions," Coghlan said. "We would like to see spring rains occur now. We need a lot of rain."
Coghlan said the lake is getting close to a point where its inability to refill all the way could prove even more dire for sustained drought conditions.
Laura Griffith, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said the region is more than two inches below normal rainfall for the year. Storms Tuesday added .85 inches in Atlanta, she said, and .74 inches of water in Athens.
Griffith said there is a 60 percent chance of rain Thursday night and Friday.
Major rain, like a tropical storm that sits above Lake Lanier, would help with the situation at the lake, Coghlan said. Cooler temperatures will also help as less water is evaporated into the air, but forecasts call for temperatures to be higher than normal.
"We're trying to hold back as much water as we can in Lake Lanier," she said. "We're required to make releases to meet water quality requirements."