Droughts do not have the immediate effects of floods, but sustained droughts can cause economic stress throughout the State. The word 'drought' has various meanings, depending on a person's perspective. To a farmer, a drought is a period of moisture deficiency that affects the crops under cultivation - even two weeks without rainfall can stress many crops during certain periods of the growing cycle. To a meteorologist, a drought is a prolonged period when precipitation is less than normal. To a water manager, a drought is a deficiency in water supply that affects water availability and water quality. To a hydrologist, a drought is an extended period of decreased precipitation and streamflow. Droughts in Georgia have severely affected municipal and industrial water supplies, agriculture, stream water quality, recreation at major reservoirs, hydropower generation, navigation, and forest resources.
In Georgia, droughts have been documented at U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow gaging stations since the 1890's. From 1910 to 1940, about 20 streamflow gaging stations were in operation. Since the early 1950's through the late 1980's, about 100 streamflow gaging stations were in operation. Currently (2000), the USGS streamflow gaging network consists of more than 135 continuous-recording gages. Ground-water levels are currently monitored at 165 wells equipped with continuous recorders.