Thursday, December 18, 2014

National Drought Mitigation Center

Types of Drought Impacts

Drought affects all parts of our environment and our communities. The many different drought impacts are often grouped as “economic,” “environmental,” and “social” impacts. All of these impacts must be considered in planning for and responding to drought conditions.

Let's take a closer look at all kinds of drought impacts.

Economic Impacts

Economic impacts are those impacts of drought that cost people (or businesses) money. Here are just a few different examples of economic impacts: 

  • Farmers may lose money if a drought destroys their crops.
  • If a farmer's water supply is too low, the farmer may have to spend more money on irrigation or to drill new wells.
  • Ranchers may have to spend more money on feed and water for their animals.
  • Businesses that depend on farming, like companies that make tractors and food, may lose business when drought damages crops or livestock.
  • People who work in the timber industry may be affected when wildfires destroy stands of timber.
  • Businesses that sell boats and fishing equipment may not be able to sell some of their goods because drought has dried up lakes and other water sources.
  • Power companies that normally rely on hydroelectric power (electricity that's created from the energy of running water) may have to spend more money on other fuel sources if drought dries up too much of the water supply. The power companies' customers would also have to pay more.
  • Water companies may have to spend money on new or additional water supplies.
  • Barges and ships may have difficulty navigating streams, rivers, and canals because of low water levels, which would also affect businesses that depend on water transportation for receiving or sending goods and materials.
  • People might have to pay more for food. 

Environmental Impacts

Drought also affects the environment in many different ways. Plants and animals depend on water, just like people. When a drought occurs, their food supply can shrink and their habitat can be damaged. Sometimes the damage is only temporary and their habitat and food supply return to normal when the drought is over. But sometimes drought's impact on the environment can last a long time, maybe forever. Examples of environmental impacts include: 

  • Losses or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Lack of food and drinking water for wild animals
  • Increase in disease in wild animals, because of reduced food and water supplies
  • Migration of wildlife
  • Increased stress on endangered species or even extinction
  • Lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds
  • Loss of wetlands
  • More wildfires
  • Wind and water erosion of soils
  • Poor soil quality 

Social Impacts

Social impacts of drought are ways that drought affects people’s health and safety. Social impacts include public safety, health, conflicts between people when there isn't enough water to go around, and changes in lifestyle. Examples of social impacts include:

  • Anxiety or depression about economic losses caused by drought
  • Health problems related to low water flows and poor water quality
  • Health problems related to dust
  • Loss of human life
  • Threat to public safety from an increased number of forest and range fires
  • Reduced incomes
  • People may have to move from farms into cities, or from one city to another
  • Fewer recreational activities

The National Drought Mitigation Center | 3310 Holdrege Street | P.O. Box 830988 | Lincoln, NE 68583–0988
phone: (402) 472–6707 | fax: (402) 472–2946 | Contact Us

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Copyright 2014 National Drought Mitigation Center