Wednesday, May 24, 2017

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought Headlines

We select interesting and representative drought stories from all over the U.S. and around the world. We group them into the same categories that the Drought Impact Reporter uses, as well as a few others. Subscribe to Drought Headlines Drought Headlines RSS

Drought Headlines Archive

General Awareness

Florida's Bone Dry and Burning While Rest of U.S. Is Soaking Wet
Bloomberg, May 19, 2017
Florida, Georgia

Florida and Georgia continued to deal with wildfires and dry conditions while much of the rest of the U.S. was wringing itself out after a rainy spring.

Forecasters think hot pattern will continue, bring drought
Brownsville Herald (Texas), May 18, 2017

The Lone Star State may be headed back into drought, if the hot, dry spring transitions into a hotter than normal summer, as often happens.

Drought in Massachusetts has ended
Boston Globe, May 11, 2017

Massachusetts no longer has any patches of drought or abnormal dryness after wet weather slowly eradicated the dryness.  Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton ended the drought advisory affecting much of the state.

BREAKING: Florida drought escalates to “extreme” level
MyPalmBeachPost (Fla.), May 04, 2017

Drought intensified on the northwestern edge of Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, with less inflow and outflow from the lake.  Larger outflows have been requested from the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resources Advisory Commission. 

U.S. drought reaches record low as rain reigns
USA Today, Apr 27, 2017

Just 6.1 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing drought, the least amount in the 17-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Texas Crop and Weather Report — May 16
Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas), May 16, 2017

Crops, pasture and rangeland in various parts of Texas were beginning to show signs of drought stress as rain missed some parts of the state.

Severe drought affects farmers
WALB (Albany, Ga.), May 11, 2017
South Georgia

South Georgia farmers are desperate for rain to sustain their crops planted in sandy soil.  Some farmers have the ability to irrigate, but low crop prices discourage additional expense on the crops.

2015 drought damage estimate was way off — it’s much worse
Yakima Herald (Wash.), May 04, 2017
Washington State

Washington state growers lost $700 million due to the 2015 drought, significantly higher than the previous estimate of $85 million.  But even the revised estimate may be too low when tallying the complete economic impact, which could be as high as $1.2 billion.

Drought Delays Planting, Farmers Look Toward May
Growing Alabama , May 02, 2017

Some Alabama farmers were waiting for rain to increase soil moisture levels before planting spring crops. Particularly in South Alabama in the Wiregrass region, rain was needed to moisten soil for planting, and farmers were postponing planting cotton and peanuts until rain falls. Farmers with irrigation were using it.

Drought causing local hay shortage, headaches for ranchers
Leesburg Daily Commercial (Fla.), May 01, 2017
Florida, Georgia, Alabama

Many Florida ranchers were seeking to purchase hay because drought meant that grass was not growing well, and even hay was scarce. Buyers looking for large round bales were having to settle for smaller square bales. The manager of a feed and supply store in Groveland stated that even some hay growers were starting to run out of hay. Parts of Georgia and Alabama were also having a critical hay shortage. 

Business & Industry

Nestlé Faces Backlash Over Collecting Water From Drought-Stricken Southern California
CBS Los Angeles, May 09, 2017
Southern California

Activists continued to protest Nestlé’s use of springs in southern California as drought and the company’s sourcing of water on public land continues to rile the public.  Of the company’s 40 water sources in the U.S., 11 are in California.  Nestlé captures about 30 million gallons of water annually and pays the U.S. Forest Service just $524 for the permit.

The 102 million dead trees in California's forests are turning tree cutters into millionaires
Los Angeles Times, Dec 14, 2016
The southern Sierra Nevada was home to millions of dead trees, needing to be felled and removed for public safety and to reduce the amount of combustible material in the landscape, but the task of removing so many trees was daunting and costly. The Forest Service estimated that there were more than 24 million dead trees in the Fresno and Tulare County portion of the Sierra Nevada alone. Tree cutters, however, see prosperity in the dead trees.
The owner of a tree service said that he charged $1,700 daily for his services. His outfit was one of more than two dozen cutting dead trees along California 168 east of Fresno to Huntington Lake.
Well companies flooded with calls for new wells as drought persists
New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester), Sep 25, 2016
New Hampshire
The owner of a well-drilling business in Amherst said they had a backlog of three to four weeks, with the phone ringing steadily in the last two weeks and most calls coming from Hillsborough and Rockingham counties. A well driller based in Hudson reported getting quite a few calls from the Kingston area. An Epping well driller was getting calls from Barrington, Brentwood, Durham, Epping, Madbury and Nottingham.
Warm, dry summer a blessing and curse for Maine golf industry
Bangor Daily News (Maine), Aug 29, 2016
Maine golf courses have benefited from the hot, dry summer because they have had sunny weather and almost no rain days. More irrigation than usual was needed to keep grass green, but golfers appreciate that dry fairways allow the balls to roll further. Overall, golf course operators seemed to like the dry summer and were happy about all of the golfers playing.
Summer drought taking toll on lawn care companies (New York), Aug 01, 2016
Rochester, New York
A Rochester lawn care business owner said he’s losing $2,500 to $3,000 weekly because grass was dormant and did not need to be mowed.


How hydroelectric power has roared back in California
San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 20, 2017
The recent years of drought caused a significant lull in hydropower production. Fifteen to 18 percent of California’s electricity generation typically comes from hydropower, but during the drought, hydropower generation dropped to less than 10 percent on average. The state turned to burning natural gas to make up the difference, driving up greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent over what they would have been. Burning natural gas also cost Californians $2.4 billion more than they would have paid if hydropower production had been near normal.
Ongoing drought taking toll on Alabama Power lake levels
Alabama NewsCenter, Sep 12, 2016
Northern Alabama
The dry summer has depleted lakes used by Alabama Power to generate electricity. Water levels at Weiss, Neely Henry, and Logan Martin lakes on the Coosa River, Harris and Martin lakes on the Tallapoosa River, and Smith Lake on the Black Warrior River were dropping and were expected to continue to drop. Alabama Power reduced water releases from its hydroelectric dams and stopped recreational releases from Jordan Dam on the Coosa River.
Water conservation has saved energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, study finds
Los Angeles Times, Jun 07, 2016
Water conservation in California between June 2015 and February 2016 resulted in energy savings of 922,543 megawatt-hours, which is enough to power 135,000 homes for a year, and also reduced greenhouse gas emissions, found researchers from the University of California-Davis. During that time, Gov. Jerry Brown’s initial emergency conservation program was in effect, requiring all water users to curb their use by 25 percent. Electric utilities and water districts were also ordered to submit reports on their operations, reports that were used by UC Davis to determine the savings.
Easing Drought Boosts California Hydropower, For Now
Climate Central, Jun 01, 2016
Spring hydropower generation has reached its highest level since 2011, thanks to near-average snowfall this winter in the Sierra Nevada, helping power production to rebound from the 15-year low reached last year.
Group Claims the Drought is Driving Up California Electric Rates
Power Talk 1360 (Modesto, Calif.), Feb 10, 2016
The Pacific Institute has noted a relationship between drought and rising electric rates and produced a report on the topic.


Ag commissioner: “No end in sight” for wildfires
Ocala Star-Banner (Fla.), May 08, 2017

Florida has endured more than 2,000 wildfires this year, burning more than 150,000 acres.  More than 100 blazes were active on May 8.

“Florida is in the middle of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a prepared statement.

Fire threat: ‘Extreme danger’
Ocala Star-Banner (Fla.), May 03, 2017

With the fire danger reaching the extreme level in Marion and Alachua counties in North Central Florida, county officials banned outdoor burning.  A wildfire outbreak like that seen in 1998 could be in the offing, barring a tropical system to douse the region.

Hot, Dry Weather Elevates Tampa Bay’s Weekend Fire Concerns
Pinellas Beaches Patch (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Apr 28, 2017

On the morning of April 28, the Florida Forest Service reported 99 active wildfires in Florida scorching 28,621 acres, apart from the 107,346 acres of fire affecting federal land.

Lehigh 'prohibits' open fires until drought ends
Fort Myers News-Press (Fla.), Apr 26, 2017
Lehigh Acres, Florida

Lehigh Acres Fire Commissioners voted to “prohibit” open fires for up to 60 days, although a Lee County ordinance puts the authority for banning open fires with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.  The Lehigh Acres Fire Commissioners opted to use different wording to skirt their lack of authority to take such action.  Lee County officials have not restricted open burning because technical indices determining high fire danger have not yet been exceeded and had not been when a large brush fire consumed more than a dozen homes and 400 acres in Lehigh Acres on April 21.

Forestry official: National refuge fire could burn 6 months
The Washington Post, Apr 24, 2017
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia

The wildfire burning in the Okefenokee refuge near the Georgia-Florida state line has already charred more than 70 square miles and could continue to burn for the next six months, said fire officials.  Over the April 22 – 23 weekend, the area burned grew by 76 percent between Friday and Monday as the flames moved into desiccated parts of the swamp, as well as the Osceola National Forest and John M. Bethea State Forest in Florida.  The conflagration is expected to continue for several months and may not be extinguished or completely contained until November, unless a large storm event puts the fire out sooner.

Plants & Wildlife

California tortoises died trying to reproduce during drought
The Sacramento Bee, May 17, 2017
Southern California

Numerous female desert tortoises have died in Southern California, and it seems that the creatures died trying to reproduce amid the recent drought.  The tortoises likely used up their water and energy to lay eggs in the Joshua Tree National Park.  Fewer males have died than females.  From the state of deterioration of the carcasses and chalkiness of the bones, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the tortoises died within the last 5 to 10 years, which encompasses years of intense drought.

Damage from the 2016 drought is evident across Alabama
Huntsville Times (Ala.), May 10, 2017

Many trees in central Alabama were not showing signs of life as spring wears on, indicating that drought killed many thousands of trees. The majority of damage occurred in evergreen species, according to Dana Stone, a forester with the Alabama Forestry Commission. Pines, Leland cypress, Japanese cypress, cedars, magnolias and even oak trees were the most affected.

FWC: Drought killing thousands of fish
WFTS (Tampa bay, Fla.), Apr 26, 2017
St. Petersburg, Florida

Thousands of fish died in a St. Petersburg pond as drought caused the water to warm, rending it incapable of holding enough dissolved oxygen to support the fish.  Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation has received 50 calls on their fish kill hotline.

Experts: Drought conditions mean venomous snakes could be on the move
WFTV9 (Orlando, Fla.), Apr 25, 2017

Florida’s drying lakes and swamps were driving venomous snakes out of their normal habitat and seeking more water somewhere else, sometimes bringing the serpents into contact with people.

The trees that make Southern California shady and green are dying. Fast.
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2017
Southern California
Southern California is undergoing a massive tree die-off as the stress of drought, water restrictions, higher salinity levels in recycled water, wind and new pests take a terrible toll on the region’s trees, particularly those better suited to climates other than California’s.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Water shortage warning declared for 18 Northeast Florida counties
The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), May 16, 2017
Northeastern Florida

Counties within the St. Johns River Water Management District were in a water shortage warning because precipitation has been below normal in much of the region.  Previously, seven counties in the district were in a water shortage alert starting in March, but authorities expanded and upgraded the alert to involve all 18 counties within the district as drought became extreme.

State ends drought watch
The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.), May 16, 2017

Nineteen Pennsylvania counties in the southeastern part of the state were no longer in a drought watch and returned to normal status.

After needed rain, state ends 1st ever drought watch
Danbury News Times (Conn.), May 09, 2017

Connecticut’s drought watch was lifted and replaced by a drought advisory as the Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup updated the state’s drought status.  While two months of above normal precipitation improved water supplies, the group warned that "streamflow and groundwater levels have demonstrated some volatility and remain vulnerable."

Drought watches, warnings lifted for most N.J. counties
New Jersey Herald (Newton), Apr 13, 2017
New Jersey
Most of the drought watches and warnings were lifted for New Jersey counties as rain and snow alleviated drought and refilled water supplies. Hunterdon and Somerset counties remained in a drought watch. Round Valley reservoir and Spruce Run reservoir were at 72 and 69 percent of capacity, respectively, and need more precipitation to refill.
Governor Brown Lifts Drought Emergency, Retains Prohibition on Wasteful Practices
Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. (Calif.), Apr 07, 2017
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. lifted the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices. Emergency drinking water projects continue in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties, due to diminished groundwater supplies.

Society & Public Health

Another reason to curse Central Florida drought — fleas
Orlando Sentinel (Fla.), May 17, 2017

Flea problems arose in January and February, while fleas typically do not become problematic until March, said an Orlando veterinarian.  Fleas tend to thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity.

Avocados pricier, in shorter supply for Cinco de Mayo
Courier Post (Camden South Jersey), May 04, 2017

Avocado prices were high ahead of Cinco de Mayo, due to increased demand worldwide, bad weather when avocados were blooming, salty soil in California in the wake of drought and the unpredictability of the avocado trees.

Drought linked with human health risks in US analysis
MedicalXpress, Apr 04, 2017
Western U.S.
Severe drought can increase the risk of heart and lung illnesses and death for older people. Researchers reviewed health and drought data from 618 counties in the western U.S. between 2000 and 2013.
NASA Data Show California’s San Joaquin Valley Still Sinking (Nevada City, Calif.), Feb 28, 2017
San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, California
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory identified two major bowls of subsidence in California related to additional groundwater pumping associated with recent years of drought. They were located near Chowchilla, south of Merced, and Corcoran, north of Bakersfield, and continued to sink nearly 2 feet per year between May 2015 and Sept. 2016. Other parts of the San Joaquin Valley were sinking, as well, such as near Tranquility, where sinking increased in the past year and occurred at a rate of up to 20 inches per year.
Some subsidence occurred in the Sacramento Valley near Davis and Arbuckle. A new patch of subsidence was discovered in Sierra Valley, north of Lake Tahoe.
Drought May Beckon Bigger West Nile Outbreaks
Health Day (Norwalk, Conn.), Feb 08, 2017
A review of 15 years’ worth of data on West Nile virus infections found that epidemics were larger during drought years, according to research from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Drought was the dominant weather variable correlated with the size of the West Nile virus epidemics,” stated study author Sara Paull, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz. What was unclear was how drought might be worsening the epidemics.

Tourism & Recreation

You can now use the outdoor showers at state beaches again
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2017
California Coast
The California Department of Parks and Recreation ended its two-year ban on outdoor shower use at 38 state beaches. Drought and the need for water conservation prompted the ban, which was not popular with beach goers.
Salmon fishing closed this year on southern Oregon Coast
The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.), Apr 16, 2017
Southern Oregon Coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon. The fish have faced significant challenges with drought and other factors in recent years.
Salmon fishing shut down for southern Oregon coast
Outdoor News (Plymouth, Minn.), Apr 14, 2017
Southern Oregon coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon, given the challenges the fish have faced with drought and other factors in recent years.
Corps urges caution on Arkansas reservoir lakes (Little Rock, Ark.), Feb 05, 2017
Northwestern Arkansas
Lakes in northern and western Arkansas were lower than normal, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to warn recreationists to be careful of shallow waters and objects nearer the water’s surface. Beaver, Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry, Norfork and Table Rock lakes were 5 to 10 feet lower than normal.
Several boat ramps at The Rez closing due to drought conditions
WJTV-TV CBS 12 (Jackson, Miss.), Nov 10, 2016
Barnett Reservoir, Jackson, Mississippi
Several boat ramps at Barnett Reservoir were closed as drought lowered the water level. Some of the ramp closures included Fannin Landing in Rankin County, Brown’s Landing in Madison County and five subdivision ramps.

Water Supply & Quality

Biologist: Drought had impact on water quality
Eagle Times (Claremont, N.H.), May 17, 2017
New Hampshire

Drought allowed levels of E. coli to rise to unusually high concentrations at Sunapee State Park and other water bodies in New Hampshire, stated Kirsten Nelson, a biologist with the Watershed Management Bureau.  A recently released report rated Sunapee State Park Beach with a negative grade for 2016, due to high levels of E. coli in its water.  According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, just 52 percent of the samples taken in 2016 were acceptable, and “data periodically exceeded water quality standards or thresholds for this parameter by a large margin.”

UCLA-led researchers track groundwater loss during drought in California’s Central Valley
UCLA Newsroom, May 17, 2017
Central Valley, California

Significant amounts of groundwater were used in the Central Valley during California’s two recent droughts in 2007-2009 and 2012-2016, found researchers from UCLA and the University of Houston.  During the two droughts, a total of 16.5 cubic kilometers and 40 cubic kilometers of water were lost, respectively.  In the most recent drought, more than 10 cubic kilometers of water were lost annually.

Heavy rain has helped N.J., but 2 major reservoirs continue to struggle (Newark, N.J.), May 12, 2017
New Jersey

The plentiful rains of April and early May and snow melt from February and March storms have northern New Jersey’s reservoirs sitting pretty for the most part.  Two reservoirs in western Hunterdon County in the central part of the state, however, need more rain.

Low Lake Lanier levels impact metro's drinking water
WSB-TV Atlanta, May 04, 2017
Lake Lanier in North Georgia

Lake Lanier was nearly 8 feet below normal full summer pool as of May 3, making water authorities anxious about the upcoming summer water demand.

Dropping temperatures in geothermal wells merits careful scrutiny
Klamath Falls Herald and News (Ore.), Apr 30, 2017
Southern Oregon

Drought has drawn down groundwater in the Klamath Falls area, leaving homes and businesses that rely on geothermal heating cooling.  Some homeowners have experienced substantial temperature drops in their homes, as has the system operated by the city of Klamath Falls used for deicing some downtown sidewalks.


Threat of malnutrition still high in Somalia despite onset of rains: ICRC
Reuters, May 19, 2017

Seasonal rains in Somalia began the second week of April, but the threat of malnutrition lingered as the number of children admitted to the International Red Cross’ feeding centers was nearly twice that of 2016.

This is not a drill: Cape Town, climate and the water crisis
Africa Times, May 16, 2017
Cape Town, South Africa

Ongoing drought and the resulting water crisis have led to a drought crisis warning for Cape Town, with requests for residents to use as little water as possible for essential drinking, cooking and washing.  Water levels of dams and reservoirs were so low that the poor water quality made the water nearly unusable.  

Drought "most pressing priority" in Somalia: UN chief
United Nations Radio, May 11, 2017

Somalia is still urgently in need of more aid as the country endures drought, with the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seeking another $900 million this year.

United Arab Emirates to tow iceberg from Antarctica to relieve drought: report
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), May 05, 2017
United Arab Emirates

Towing the iceberg from Antarctica to the Middle East ought to take about one year, but it is thought that the density and mass of the massive ice cube will keep it from melting too quickly, despite the heat.  The iceberg will be used for drinking water.

Somalia: 1.4M children to suffer acute malnutrition this year – UN agency
UN News Centre, May 02, 2017

The United Nations Children’s Fund expects 1.4 million Somali children to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2017, including more than 275,000 children who are or will suffer life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.


Hydrological drought amplifies wildfires in Borneo’s humid tropics, May 02, 2017

The area affected by wildfires in Borneo is typically ten times the size during drought years compared to non-drought years, found researchers from the Wageningen University and Research Centre.

Under the dead sea, warnings of dire drought, Mar 22, 2017
Middle East
Deposits from nearly 1,000 feet below the Dead Sea indicated that the Middle East has endured episodes where precipitation dropped to one-fifth of modern day levels.
NAU study finds drought-quenching bacteria protect plants from climate stress
Northern Arizona University News (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Mar 20, 2017

Plants that received growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), a diverse group of organisms known for their root and rhizosphere colonizing ability, experienced vegetable and grain yield increases of 20 to 45 percent. Such benefits are even more pronounced during drought conditions.
Anthropogenic warming impacts on California snowpack during drought
American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, Mar 15, 2017
Anthropogenic warming reduced average snowpack levels by 25 percent between 2011 and 2015, found researchers from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California.
Monitoring Droughts' Movements Would Aid Vulnerable Areas, Researchers Say
Voice of America, Mar 09, 2017

Researchers from Princeton University focused on improving drought forecasting by analyzing the physical mechanisms and evolution of droughts that occurred between 1979 and 2009.


California growers, researchers preparing for next drought
Capital Press - Agriculture Weekly (Salem, Ore.), May 18, 2017

Growers and researchers were working fervently to find ways to help California’s orchards, vineyards and row crops withstand the next drought with as little water as they can manage and yet thrive.  Subsurface drip irrigation, minimizing soil disturbance, leaving crop residue, diversifying crop rotations and using cover crops are some of the strategies for improving moisture retention and drought tolerance.

Will replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants make L.A. hotter?
Los Angeles Times, Aug 02, 2016
If every lawn in Los Angeles were replaced with drought-tolerant vegetation, researchers from the University of Southern California found that the city’s overall temperature in July would increase up to 3.4 degrees during the day and decrease by about 5.4 degrees cooler during the night. The lower soil moisture changes the thermal properties of the soil.
San Luis Valley aquifer refills after years of drought, overuse
Santa Fe New Mexican, Jun 11, 2016
San Luis Valley in southern Colorado
A multiyear drought that began in 2002 in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado quickly drew down the region’s streams and water table, causing wells to go dry abruptly. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District and San Luis Valley water users created a subdistrict project to address the water problem of over appropriation and help the region to balance its water use. Farmers and ranchers paid $75 per acre-foot of groundwater they pumped, but also were compensated for fallowing parts of their fields, limiting water demand.
In the four years since the subdistrict project began in 2012, the aquifer is recovering. One-third less groundwater water being pumped than before the project, from more than 320,000 acre-feet prior to 2012 to about 200,000 acre-feet. Ten thousand acres that previously were used to cultivate thirsty alfalfa and potato crops were fallow. Stewards of the land continue to improve soil quality and were striving to grow more efficient crops as other ways to help the aquifer.
Central America tests drought-resistant 'miracle' beans
ReliefWeb, Dec 01, 2015
El Salvador
A hybrid light red bean created through traditional cross-breeding grows well despite little moisture and is resistant to bean golden yellow mosaic virus.
This machine can make salty water drinkable — using only the sun’s rays
The Washington Post, May 06, 2015

A group of people from Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a novel method of purifying brackish, undrinkable water via a solar-powered water desalination system. The water produced by the system is free of contaminants and is potable.
Drought Headlines Archive

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