We hope the drought, voted top local story of 2007 by online readers, does not become the top story of 2008.
A wet December helped break a long dry spell and keep 2007 from being the driest year on record. That dubious distinction still belongs to 2001. But 2007, even with more than 2 inches of steady rain on the final weekend of the year, ranks as the third-driest year for the region, just behind 1986.
While December brought more than 4 inches altogether to the annual rain gauge, the total rainfall for the year was only 28.61 inches, nearly 15 inches below normal. While the recent rain raised Lake Wylie's level by more than half a foot, the lake still is close to 6 feet below normal.
Boat ramps along most of the lake will remain closed because of shallow water. Most cities and towns in the Catawba River basin continue to struggle with Stage 2 or 3 water restrictions.
The good news is that above-normal December rains helped reduce the prospect of moving up to Stage 4 restrictions -- at least for now. But experts predict drier-than-normal weather until at least March, and this drought will not end for many months to come.
If that scenario can be said to have an upside, it would be an increased awareness of the importance and the fragility of our water supply, especially with exploding growth and the increased water demand that comes with it. This drought also should have made residents throughout the Southeast more knowledgeable about the need to conserve water and how to get by with using less.
That lesson hasn't been easy. Its price has included scorched lawns and gardens.
Again, though, that harsh lesson might elicit a water-sensitive response, such as the introduction of hardier grasses and plants to residential landscapes.
In short, we hope this drought ends soon, but realize we need to be prepared if it doesn't.