For the first time since 2012, a substantial part of North Carolina entered the first stages of drought this month, including Mecklenburg County.
North Carolina’s Drought Management Advisory Council classifies more than 20 counties in the western half of the state as experiencing “moderate drought”— the first of four stages, and not especially alarming says Rebecca Cumbie, a climatologist at the State Climate Office of North Carolina.
“Drought is a part of our climate. We go through wet spells, we go through dryer spells, and this is a dryer spell at least for that part of the state,” says Cumbie. “I wouldn’t be worried right now, I would be aware.”
Cumbie says hot weather and lower than average rainfall have made the state slightly drier than the summer of 2012’s moderate drought, but still nowhere near what California’s experiencing, nor North Carolina’s 2007 to 2008 drought.
But the weather and the speed it took hold do remind Charlotte’s water department spokeswoman Louise Bhavnani of that record drought.
“It’s starting off to be the same as that was,” says Bhavnani. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to get that bad.”
The National Weather Service predicts hotter weather and less precipitation could continue into fall, but a colder, wetter winter could also alleviate those conditions.
Bhavnani says her department is preparing to reduce the city’s water usage and asking residents to watch theirs.
“Cutting down on your irrigation, knowing that you only need one inch of water a week, trying to figure out ways to make sure that all the water you put on that grass is going into the grass and not evaporating or you’re not watering the driveway,” says Bhavnani. “All those things are really, really important.”
For now, the Catawba River has enough water that, while the state considers Mecklenburg County to have entered drought, the City of Charlotte has only implemented what’s called a “drought watch.”