‘Please pray for rain’: Rock Hill leader says severe drought is coming

A Rock Hill city official sees a severe drought coming.

Jimmy Bagley, deputy city manager, said at city council’s meeting Monday night that if the city does not get rain in the next two weeks, the city will likely move into a severe drought, which would mean mandatory water-use restrictions.

Bagley, chairperson of Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group and a member of the South Carolina Drought Response Committee, said both committees have had recent meetings on the status of the area’s drought.

“All indicators are basically showing that we are in severe dry times,” Bagley said. “The only thing that’s keeping us out of a severe drought notification at this point is the fact that the stream levels are still up, so the fact that the lakes are up.”

Lake Wylie was only 4 inches below target level on Tuesday, according to Duke Energy, which manages the Catawba River lake system.

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee recently upgraded York County’s drought status from incipient to moderate. Lancaster and Chester are also in moderate drought status. The committee lists conditions spanning normal, incipient, moderate, severe and extreme.

Bagley said local farmers are “really crying for a severe drought notification,” but since the water levels are good, the city is not considered to be in a severe drought.

The state uses multiple indicators to determine the drought status, including lake levels, stream flow levels, groundwater levels, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Drought Management Advisory Group uses similar indicators.

“We’re really at a little bit of a conundrum as do you call it based on the farmers’ issues or the water quality or water levels?” Bagley said. “And based on the farmers, we are in a severe drought. The crops are dying. They’re not producing.”

Bagley said if there’s no rain soon, he suspects at the next meeting, the state’s drought response committee will move the area to a severe drought. As a result, the governor could enforce mandatory restrictions on water usage, Bagley said.

Bagley said if the Drought Management Advisory Group determines the city move to severe drought, any usage restrictions would come before city council.

“Let’s pray for rain,” Bagley said at the end of the meeting.

“Yes,” Mayor John Gettys said. “Please pray for rain.”

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Cailyn Derickson is a city government and politics reporter for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Cailyn graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has previously worked at The Pilot and The News and Observer.