Bentley expands Drought Emergency statewide as Lake Purdy sees lowest levels in 35 years

Published: Nov. 7, 2016 at 8:59 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2016 at 11:44 PM CST
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Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Gov. Robert Bentley has extended the burn ban to include all 67 counties in the state.

Bentley announced he's expanding the Drought Emergency Declaration statewide in a news conference held on Monday afternoon at Lake Purdy, a Birmingham Water Works Board reservoir that is at its lowest point in 35 years.

Lake Purdy is currently only around 25 percent full, down more than 20 feet. Bentley said this is the second lowest Lake Purdy has been in history.

"We're in a difficult situation right now and people need to realize that," Bentley said.

The BWWB uses Lake Purdy to provide water for 600,000 people in Jefferson and Shelby counties in mostly Over the Mountain communities.

Bentley said BWWB is trying to get water from another source, but he wouldn't name a source.

The BWWB is already buying water from Shelby County and the city of Irondale, where the mayor estimated making $10,000 to $20,000 a day from the sale.

The governor says the BWWB has told him the water treatment plant at Shades Mountain needs 25 million gallons of water a day to operate efficiently. Right now it's down to 27 million gallons

Bentley said 1,421 wildfires have burned more than 15,000 acres of timberland across the state since Oct. 1. During the same period last year, only 323 wildfires burned 1,846 acres in Alabama.

"Now we're getting into a situation that truly affects the lives of people more so than just the timber burning," the governor said.

The BWWB announced a Stage Four Extreme Drought Emergency on Friday, Nov. 4.

Under the Stage Four guidelines, the BWWB can implement surcharges for excessive water use and customers are only allowed to water their yards with a hose with a nozzle once a week.

The drought is also affecting farmers across the state, forcing some to consider selling off cattle or shutting down their farms.

Bentley said he'll be meeting with the Cattleman's Association on Wednesday to address some of the concerns.

Farmers can apply for several federal assistance programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bentley is asking people to pray for rain and to conserve water where they can.

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