Lake Levels Hit Record Lows Due to Drought, According to Alabama Power

The drought that has parched Alabama for the past two-and-one-half years has dropped lake levels of Alabama Power reservoirs to record lows. Lake levels will continue to fall without significant rains.

The Warrior and Tallapoosa river basins are experiencing the worst drought conditions. Smith Lake, on the Warrior River, is nearing its all-time low of 489 feet. Harris Lake, on the Tallapoosa, is at its all-time low at 780 feet. On the Coosa River, the Weiss and Logan Martin reservoirs are at or near all- time lows for this time of year. A complete summary of lake levels and conditions is included in this news release.

National Weather Service records show that this is the longest drought period experienced by Alabama in more than 100 years. The service estimates that rainfall totals for the state are 10 inches to 20 inches below normal this year. Weather forecasters estimate that it will take between nine inches and 12 inches of rain to alleviate state-wide drought conditions.

Boater safety is always a concern when lake levels are below normal. Boaters on all Alabama Power reservoirs could encounter shallow water and other hazards that normally aren't exposed. Property and homeowners should be aware of lake levels and take appropriate steps to protect private property such as boats and piers.

The drought has hampered recreational use of the reservoirs and frustrated property owners as lake levels were well below normal throughout the summer. However, reservoir operators point out that Alabama Power's storage reservoirs have been crucial to maintaining water supply, water quality, flows for barge navigation and for sustaining natural habitat along the Coosa, Warrior, Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers.

"The lakes were built to store water for making power, but there are extra benefits," says Andy Sheppard, Alabama Power's reservoir operations coordinator. "In extreme drought situations, our focus shifts from making power to helping ensure adequate water supply along the rivers. Think about what these rivers might look like if we weren't able to make releases from these lakes."

A special Alabama Power drought team has been meeting regularly since May to discuss appropriate operational procedures during the drought. The team works closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state officials to coordinate releases from the reservoirs.

Alabama Power will continue to keep the lakes as full as possible while meeting navigational flow, critical power generation, water quality and environmental requirements.

Information about lake levels and generating schedules at Alabama Power's hydroelectric dams is available to the public through Alabama Power's Reservoir Information Line at 1-800-LAKES-11.

Alabama Power provides affordable, reliable electric service to 1.3 million customers in the lower two-thirds of Alabama. Alabama Power is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company , the largest producer of electricity in the United States and one of the world's largest independent power producers.

            Alabama Power storage reservoir lake-level summary

                                                Forecast    Forecast
                                                 Low by      Low by
                 Current     Winter   Historic   Nov. 30    Dec. 31
                  Level      Normal     Low      Without    Without
                                                Rainfall    Rainfall
  Weiss           558.7       558       556        556        553
  Neely Henry     505.3       505       500        503        502
  Logan Martin    460.3       460       458        457        455
  Smith           490.0       496       489        488        487
  Harris          780.1       785       781        777        775
  Martin          479.9       480       476        477        474

SOURCE: Alabama Power

Contact: David Oliver of Alabama Power, 205-257-2401, or pager,