Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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

Intensifying Calif. drought sets off alarms
USA Today, Mar 18, 2015
Five years of drought and heat have cost the Western U.S. nearly $60 billion since 2010, stated a meteorologist with Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm. In California alone, losses amount to roughly $5 billion.
Op-Ed California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?
Los Angeles Times, Mar 13, 2015
This op-ed piece by Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, has caused quite a stir. He asserts that California has one year of water remaining in its reservoirs and that groundwater is being extracted at an unsustainable rate. The state has no contingency plan.
El Niño arrives weak and late, and won’t help against the drought
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Mar 05, 2015

The feeble El Niño won’t likely bring the storms California so desperately needs.
LCRA says drought now worse than '47-'57 drought
KTBC-TV MyFoxAustin (Texas), Feb 18, 2015
Central Texas
Near historical low inflows to the Highland Lakes and the duration and intensity of the drought spurred the Lower Colorado River Authority to describe the current drought as being worse than the 1947 to 1957 drought.
"This drought has gone on long enough and been severe enough to where it has become the new standard by which we judge drought in Central Texas and it's what defines our supplies," said the vice president of the LCRA, headquartered in Austin.
Panhandle lags in snowpack
The Coeur d' Alene Press (Idaho), Feb 17, 2015
The normally snowy northern panhandle is lacking snow this year, measuring 50 to 60 percent of the median, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.


Summit examines pain in oil, ag, related industries
Bakersfield Californian, Mar 25, 2015
Kern County, California
Drought and unusually low oil prices have taken a toll on Kern County’s economy, with agricultural output and oil profits falling. An economist from Cal State Bakersfield stated that the county could lose 7,000 jobs in oil, agriculture and related industries. Local water experts feared that the amount of land in agricultural production could drop by one-fifth as the cost of water rises, due to scarcity, and could result in the loss of 12,400 farm jobs and $631 million annually in income to farmers.
Will wet weather help North Texas ranchers beef up herds?
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Mar 25, 2015
North Texas
Some North Texas ranchers remained wary of rebuilding their cattle herds as drought and low water supplies persisted and the price of cattle continued to be prohibitive. Before the drought, which began about four years ago, live cattle traded for $0.95 per pound, but at present were selling for $1.62 per pound.
Amount of chile produced in New Mexico continues to drop
Las Cruces Sun-News (N.M.), Mar 07, 2015
New Mexico
Dry weather and low irrigation allotments, stemming from drought, have New Mexico chile farmers producing less chile than previous years. In 2014, 7,700 acres of chile were harvested, a 10 percent drop from 2013, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A Doña Ana County farmer said that he has been planting less and less with each year as the lack of water becomes a bigger factor. He cut his planted acreage by 50 percent in previous years and left another 20 percent unplanted this year.
2014 California drought was bad. 2015 will be worse
CNBC, Mar 03, 2015
Agricultural losses from the California drought could reach $3 billion in 2015, an increase from about $2.2 billion in 2014.
2014 Kansas crop values down as drought, market takes toll
Salina Journal & Salina.com (Kan.), Feb 24, 2015
The value of principle Kansas crops fell to $6.51 billion in 2014 as drought and lower grain prices took their toll. The National Agricultural Statistics Service compared the 2014 figure to previous years’ values of $7.85 billion in 2013 and $8.09 billion in 2012. The state’s wheat crop was valued at $1.51 billion, corn at $2.12 billion, soybeans at $1.38 billion and sorghum at $755.2 million.

Business & Industry

Hydrologist: Big Island ‘in a moderate drought’
West Hawaii Today (Kailua-Kona), Feb 20, 2015
Big Island
Water haulers on the east side of the Big Island were chaotically busy and booked for weeks in advance because the area has gotten only a few downpours since Jan. 3. Many households in Puna have rain catchments systems that were dry or nearly so. One water hauler usually delivers about 40 loads of 3,000 gallons per month at this time of year, but the demand has risen to at least 200 water deliveries per month. They do not have access to enough trucks to serve customers as quickly as needed and transport water 15 hours per day in an effort to meet demand.
Family-owned California ski resorts struggle from drought
Associated Press, Feb 13, 2015
The snow drought in the Sierra Nevada has hurt resorts of all sizes as warm temperatures led to rain rather than coveted snow. The President’s Day weekend is typically the busiest weekend for skiing, but many resorts were closed.
Despite drought, California exports on track for record year
Sacramento Business Journal (Calif.), Dec 08, 2014
California’s agricultural exports were 5.9 percent lower from August through October, compared to the same time frame in 2013. Drought was the reason for the reduction.
Marin Sun Farms to close San Francisco facility
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Nov 17, 2014
San Francisco
Marin Sun Farms will close its San Francisco meat processing plant at the end of 2014. The rising cost of doing business and the lingering financial impacts from drought on beef producers made it a wise decision to shutter the San Francisco plant.
State exports stay strong despite slowing ag shipments
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov 04, 2014
California’s exports of non-manufactured goods, consisting of mainly agricultural produce and raw materials, were nearly the same as last year, which analysts say was a byproduct of the exceptional drought gripping the state.
“With each passing month, we are seeing mounting evidence of the adverse impact the drought is having on California’s multibillion-dollar agricultural export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser with Beacon, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.


California First To Feel Hydro-Power Crunch Of Drought
CBS2/KCAL9 (Studio City, Calif.), Mar 21, 2015
During the past three years, declining hydropower production in California cost utility customers $1.4 billion as power from alternate sources, such as natural gas-fired plants, was purchased to compensate for reduced hydroelectric production. The use of more fossil fuels also drove California carbon dioxide emissions up 8 percent.
Hydropower production at Lake Mead in May is expected to dip to 50 percent of mid-2014 levels.
California ISO: Challenging 2014 Summer but Reliability Held Firm
Reuters, Oct 20, 2014
Drought curbed California hydropower production this summer by 1,628 megawatts.
Drought Shutters Hydro Power Generation
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nev.), Jul 30, 2014
Western Nevada
Three hydropower plants belonging to the Truckee Meadows Power Authority were shutting down because there was not enough water to keep the plants operating. The plants will probably be able to generate hydropower again in January or February.
Drought hinders state's emissions goals
San Francisco Chronicle, Jul 20, 2014
Drought has cut into hydropower production in California, driving energy costs higher as the state turns to other more expensive energy sources. Hydropower generation dropped from 18.2 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2012 when drought began.
Despite years of decreases in greenhouse gas emissions since 2004, California’s emissions began to rise in 2012, due to drought and the closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant in San Diego County. Emissions data for 2013 were not yet available.
With drought comes downturn in hydroelectricity generation
Austin American-Statesman (Texas), May 23, 2014
Central Texas
Hydropower generation by the Lower Colorado River Authority was 69 percent lower in 2013 than in 2011, due to reduced flows from the Highland Lakes.


Oregon State Wildfire Insurance In Jeopardy
Oregon Public Radio (Portland, Ore.), Mar 30, 2015
Oregon officials fear that the wildfire insurance deductible may skyrocket or be denied them amid drought and recent years of intense, large wildfires often caused by lightning strikes.
California drought making wildfires a year-round threat
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Mar 17, 2015
Since the start of 2015, California wildfires scorched 3,203 acres, in comparison with the 5-year average of 793 acres, but the number of fires was nearly the same. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stayed at its highest level ever of statewide readiness through the winter and plans to boost manpower four to six weeks ahead of schedule.
WINCHESTER: Firefighters, Army reservists practice air attack
The Riverside Press Enterprise (Calif.), Feb 11, 2015
Riverside County, California
Army helicopters practiced water drops ahead of the firefighting season in southern California. Meager rainfall and limited water supplies led the Army reservists to return water to a reclaimed water storage pond after use to avoid wasting the precious liquid.
WILDFIRES: Threat should be dropping this time of year – but isn't
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), Nov 15, 2014
Southern California
Firefighting resources in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are being kept at summer levels. Normally at this time of year, reductions in staffing and equipment are made, but the fire danger remains high, so the staffing reduction is being postponed. The U.S. Forest Service also has kept its staffing levels high in the San Bernardino National Forest and the Cleveland National Forest and continues to renew contracts for firefighting airplanes on a weekly basis.
Wildfires prove costly for California budget
Los Angeles Times, Sep 29, 2014
The expense of fighting California’s many wildfires has used the $209 million set aside for the task, prompting Gov. Brown to access another $70 million from a reserve account, containing $449 million designated for unexpected costs like natural disasters, as fires continue to burn. The federal government may reimburse the state for some of the firefighting costs incurred so far.
State officials set aside more money than usual for firefighting, but the funds were spent less than three months after they were marked for firefighting. In addition, the extra money spent on firefighting has made the governor reluctant to commit funds to other programs.

Plants & Wildlife

Fate of Delta smelt sinks as numbers drop
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Mar 17, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
A March survey of Delta smelt found just six fish, the smallest March count ever recorded, according to environmental groups and scientists. Drought and delta water diversion were blamed for the population collapse, which may lead to extinction of the species.
Drought prompts early fish stocking — again
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Feb 12, 2015
Western Nevada
Low water in the Truckee River prompted the Nevada Department of Wildlife to stock the river with 7,000 rainbow trout earlier than normal while there is still enough water in the river to support the fish. Lake Tahoe remained 2.5 inches below its natural rim, in spite of the recent storms that caused an inflow of roughly 16 billion gallons. The snowpack in the Truckee River basin was less than 50 percent of normal for this time of year.
Fish were also stocked in February last year—the earliest in 20 years—due to drought and low river flows.
In Colorado, spruce bug epidemic eclipses mountain pine beetle blight
Summit Daily News (Frisco, Colo.), Feb 12, 2015
The spatial extent of Colorado forests afflicted with the spruce beetle increased from 625 square miles in 2013 to 760 square miles in 2014, according to an annual aerial survey performed by the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service. The most rapid expansion of spruce beetle activity occurred in southwestern Colorado. A number of factors, including drought, warm winters, high wind events and dense stands of older trees, have encouraged the expansion of the outbreak.
State's deer harvest up, but drought-stricken west suffers
Tulsa World (Okla.), Jan 25, 2015
Western Oklahoma
Smaller deer populations led to lower hunter success in northwestern and southwestern Oklahoma. The Wildlife Division southwest region supervisor thought that drought led to low reproduction numbers in 2011 and 2012 when fawn survival was poor. Deer populations in southwestern Oklahoma were likely to remain low until drought abates.
Biologists: Raising California dam would harm salmon
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jan 28, 2015
Sacramento River in Northern California
Three times as many or about 600,000 Chinook salmon will be released into the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam by the U.S. Fire and Wildlife Service. Warm water allowed a massive fish die-off to occur in 2014 when about 95 percent of the salmon eggs and newly hatched fish died. Only 5 percent of the juvenile salmon survived in 2014, compared with a typical survival rate of about 27 percent.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Gov. Brown, legislators to propose $1 billion drought-relief plan
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Mar 19, 2015
California’s Gov. Brown and leading legislators proposed two bills to hasten the spending of more than $1 billion in drought relief funds. The legislation would offer funding for immediate assistance to communities dealing with water shortages and unemployment.
Gov. Brown declares drought emergency in two counties
Salem Statesman-Journal (Ore.), Mar 17, 2015
A drought emergency was declared in Lake and Malheur counties in Oregon, due to drought and poor snowfall. Harney, Klamath and Crook counties were also contemplating drought declarations.
A look at California's emergency drought water restrictions
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Mar 17, 2015
The California State Water Resources Control Board tightened water restrictions to prolong water supplies as the state entered its fourth year of drought. Local water departments were charged with enforcing the rules.
Governor declares drought emergency in some parts of state
Everett Herald (Wash.), Mar 13, 2015
Gov. Inslee of Washington declared a drought emergency for the Olympic Peninsula, east side of the central Cascades including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region. Precipitation has been about average in parts of the state, but came as rain rather than snow.
California senators focus on oil industry, drinking water
SFGate.com (San Francisco), Mar 10, 2015
Members of the California Senate committees on environmental quality and natural resources met after critical state and federal reviews of the oil and gas industry’s wastewater disposal activities. Loose enforcement of regulations and errors in record-keeping have endangered federally protected water sources for drinking and irrigation.

Society & Public Health

California drought: Most say neighbors could do more to conserve
San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 25, 2015
Sixty-six percent of Californians feel that their neighbors could save more water and that local water supplies would be very inadequate or somewhat inadequate in a decade, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California. The survey involved 1,706 adults between March 8 and 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.
First a snowpack drought, now haboobs
Spokane Spokesman-Review (Wash.), Mar 18, 2015
The lack of snow and warmer than normal temperatures have the Washington Ecology Department warning residents of Central and Eastern Washington to carry dust masks, due to the likelihood of dust storms. Strong winds, combined with drying fields and forest beds, could cause the storms and respiratory problems in the very young and people with asthma.
Air quality suffers as fewer winter storms wash away smog, pollution
Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), Mar 18, 2015
Southern California
The South Coast Air Quality Management District saw 25 no-burn days this winter as the air quality deteriorated, due to drought and few rainfall events. No-burn days are called when forecasts predict the air pollution levels will rise above the federal 24-hour limits at the monitoring station in Mira Loma. During the 2013-2014 winter season, there were 16 no-burn days.
Food prices predicted to remain stable through 2015, with a couple of big ifs
Los Angeles Times, Mar 10, 2015
In 2014, the cost of beef rose 23.6 percent as the lingering effects of the Midwestern drought kept prices high. Beef prices are expected to continue climbing another 5 to 6 percent in 2015.
Fresno agencies seeing more people in need of energy, food help
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Mar 04, 2015
San Joaquin Valley in California
The variability of seasonal employment and drought has sapped work opportunities and limited monthly income for workers in the San Joaquin Valley, making it harder for families to get by. As a result, the Fresno Economics Opportunities Commission and Salvation Army have been helping people pay utility bills. The Community Food Bank provides food assistance to 280,000 people monthly.

Tourism & Recreation

National Park Service to halt Lake Meredith boat launch fees, permits
Amarillo Globe-News (Texas), Mar 23, 2015
Texas Panhandle
Lake Meredith boat launch fees and permits were suspended for the next three years, and possibly longer, as the projects funded by the fees have been completed. Drought has also lowered visitation to the lake over the past few years.
Drought alters the face of Tahoe tourism
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Mar 21, 2015
West Coast
As the snow drought drove numerous West Coast resorts to close early, many Sierra Nevada resorts were adapting by offering more warm weather activities and events to keep visitors entertained while visiting the resorts year round. Some Sierra Nevada resorts were constructing zip lines, mountain bike trails and wedding venues to adapt to less snowy winters.
Poor snow conditions end Sugar Bowl ski season
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Mar 18, 2015
Lake Tahoe area, California
Sugar Bowl Ski Resort has surrendered to the dry winter, making it the sixth ski resort to close early. Other closed resorts include Donner Summit, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Donner Ski Ranch, Homewood, Soda Springs and Tahoe Donner.
Santa Cruz giant water slide event plans nixed
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Feb 24, 2015
Slide the City, an event to be held in Santa Cruz, was canceled when the city denied the Utah-based entertainment company a special event permit. Conservation-minded citizens showed their disapproval of the activity by signing an online petition opposing the event. The company putting on the events removed all California cities from its website.
Warm, dry weather prompts access changes in Yellowstone
West Yellowstone News (Mont.), Feb 20, 2015
Meager snowpack in Utah, California, Colorado and Washington has skiers flocking to the Rendezvous Ski Trails, where trails are shaded and groomed nightly to keep them in good shape, despite warm temperatures.
Nearby in Yellowstone National Park, warm weather melted away the little snow the park had, prompting changes to park access. Guests may take commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or commercial wheeled vehicles to travel from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful. At present, vehicles with ski steering cannot be operated safely.

Water Supply & Quality

City of Huron Faces Possibility of Running Out of Water By July
YourCentralValley.com (Fresno, Calif.), Mar 20, 2015
Huron, California
Huron expects to receive just 25 percent of its normal allotment via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and another agency, providing enough water to carry the city through July. City officials do not know what will happen beyond that date, but are working with the state Division of Drinking Water to come up with a plan.
Cut water use in Reno-Sparks now, TMWA says
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Mar 18, 2015
Western Nevada
The Truckee Meadows Water Authority asked its customers to voluntarily curb their water use by a minimum of 10 percent from last year’s level. The TMWA expects to begin using backup drought supplies and increase groundwater pumping to satisfy summer water needs. Last summer, the TMWA urged residents to cut outdoor irrigation by 10 percent, and by August, dipped into drought reserves for the first time in 20 years.
As drought worsens, L.A. water agency offers cash to Sacramento Valley farmers
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Mar 12, 2015
Sacramento Valley, Southern California
Some SoCal water districts, including the Metropolitan Water District, have purchased 115,000 acre-feet of water from rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley at a cost of $71 million. Some of the farmers find selling the water to be more lucrative than growing rice, but rice production was already down 25 percent in 2014 for lack of water.
This water transaction and others are indicative of the market forces shifting water allocations in California.
California survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal
Chico Enterprise-Record (California), Mar 03, 2015
Surveyors found 6.7 inches of snow with a water equivalent of 0.9 inches near Echo Summit. The traditional end of the wet season on April 1 is rapidly approaching with little precipitation in sight.
California officials to supply just 20 percent of water
Napa Valley Register (California), Mar 02, 2015
The State Water Project increased its allocation estimate to 20 percent of contracted amounts, up from its January estimate of 15 percent. While the uptick is an improvement, this amount would be the SWP’s second lowest water delivery since 1990. The additional water would help water agencies, but many will have to rely on groundwater and carefully manage supplies to get through the year.


Zambia to Sell Corn From Record Crop; Drought Hits Neighbors
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Mar 23, 2015
South Africa
South Africa is enduring its worst drought since 1992, losing an estimated 32 percent of its 2015 harvest for the smallest crop in the last eight years. Botswana may see a total crop failure on account of drought.
No water: Arusha taps run dry
ReliefWeb (New York), Mar 21, 2015
Nearly all of the taps in Arusha City are dry, with some not giving water for four months or more. Residents have protested in the streets, wanting water, but the faucets remain dry, and the exorbitant water bills keep coming, despite the fact that they do not receive water.
Desert Deluge Shuts Copper Mines as Towns Engulfed in Chile
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Mar 25, 2015
Rivers dried up from years of drought and exploitation came alive again after heavy rains resulting in flooding.
South Africa’s Worst Drought Since 1992 Prompts Corn Imports
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Mar 20, 2015
South Africa
South African will be looking to purchase 934,000 metric tons of yellow corn, costing about $137 million at present international price. The corn is needed for livestock feed because drought appears to have slashed corn production by about 32 percent.
Taiwan Further Restricts Water Amid Record Drought
Bloomberg, Mar 19, 2015
Water supplies for industrial and domestic use was further restricted as drought persists in Taiwan. The government ordered a 5 percent cut in some areas in late February, will cut water for industrial use by 10 percent on March 23, and will stop water service two days per week to two northern Taiwan cities at the start of April.


CO2 increase can intensify future droughts in tropics, study suggests
Phys.org (Great Britain), Mar 09, 2015

Tropical and subtropical regions could see more intense and rapidly developing droughts with higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
Water stress takes toll on California's large trees, study says
Los Angeles Times, Jan 20, 2015
California’s forests have become denser with smaller trees and more susceptible to fast-moving wildfires, due to drought, fire-suppression techniques and changes in land use. Tree surveys performed between 1929 and 1936 and 2001 and 2010 were analyzed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey. The surveys showed a reduction in large tree density across the state with drops as high as 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central Coast Ranges and Northern California.
Ag uses for highly saline water researched
Albuquerque Journal (N.M.), Jan 05, 2015
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Experiments with alternative water sources, like wastewater and highly saline water, to irrigate crops and urban areas were underway at New Mexico State University. The aim is to conserve potable water and maintain agricultural practices, said a professor of soil physics at NMSU. Barley and triticale, biomass plants lepidium alyssoides and switchgrass, and fodder plants Atriplex and NiPa Grass are being used.
Floods Breed Cooperation, Droughts Breed Conflict
Water Online, Dec 16, 2014

Floods require emergency response that is short-lived, while droughts often mean sustained response efforts where decisions over water allocations must be made, sometimes leading to conflict.
Study finds varied fish response to unexpected droughts
Phys.org (Great Britain), Dec 15, 2014

Native fish populations on the Upper Verde River in Arizona decreased during droughts and increased during floods, while non-native populations did not vary much, according to research conducted by Albert Ruhí with Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.


Company says evaporation suppression worked
Wichita Falls Times Record News (Texas), Jan 28, 2015
Wichita Falls, Texas
The evaporation suppression powder used on Arrowhead Lake during the 2014 summer was successful. A report by the Texas Water Development Board said the measure may have reduced normal evaporation by 15 percent.
Wichita Falls officials were evaluating the report and considered it inconclusive. The city spent about $294,000 on the project.
Cloud seeding, no longer magical thinking, is poised for use this winter
The Sacramento Bee (California), Nov 11, 2013
Cloud seeding will continue to be used in California during the 2013-14 winter to boost snowfall and increase water supplies in a state that has endured two years of drought. Cloud-seeding efforts in California began more than 60 years ago and involve the spraying of silver iodide into clouds.
Heat, Drought Draw Farmers Back To Sorghum, The 'Camel Of Crops'
National Public Radio (Washington, D.C.), Oct 31, 2013
Farmers trying to find crops that need less water are rediscovering grain sorghum, and people searching for healthier foods are buying more of it.
USDA study shows benefits of weaning calves early
Drovers Cattle Network (Lenexa, Kansas), Aug 29, 2013

Weaning calves early during drought allows cows to gain more weight and achieve better body condition than cows with nursing calves. Consequently, less harvested feedstuffs were needed for cows to maintain adequate body weights and condition during the winter.
USDA Recommends New Practice to Combat Drought
WIUM-FM Tri States Public Radio (Macomb, Illinois), Aug 27, 2013
Illinois, Midwest
The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service says that drain water management techniques can help farmers cope with drought as they regulate how much water is allowed to drain from a field. A device can be attached to the ends of tile lines to act as a valve to keep needed moisture from draining away.
Drought Headlines Archive

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