Thursday, October 30, 2014

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

Lake Tahoe Reaches Natural Rim
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nevada), Oct 15, 2014
Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe has fallen to the point that it no longer feeds the Truckee River. The lake has contributed little to the river in recent months.
Another Dust Bowl? California Drought Resembles Worst in Millennium
LiveScience (Los Angeles), Oct 15, 2014
Researchers from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that 1934 was far and away the worst drought in North America between 1000 and 2005. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast was present in 1934 and also during the current drought.
California ends one of driest-ever water years
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sep 30, 2014
The 2014 water year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30) was one of the driest on record, with California receiving less than 60 percent of average precipitation. Collectively, major reservoirs in the state held only 57 percent of average storage, as of Sept. 1.
Drought to be as bad or worse next year, forecasters say
Associated Press, Sep 21, 2014
Western U.S.
Much of the West, including California, Nevada and Utah, can expect more of the same next year, in terms of drought.
Drought declared in parts of S.C.
GreenvilleOnline (Greenville, South Carolina), Sep 16, 2014
South Carolina
The South Carolina Drought Task Force considers Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Lexington and Orangeburg to be in incipient drought after the region’s third driest summer on record.


Drought causing hay shortages among farmers, ranchers
Daily Democrat (Woodland, Calif.), Oct 23, 2014
High quality organic and conventional hay were scarce in California where years of drought have cut into hay production. Cattle ranchers and dairy farmers have been hard pressed for the past two years to find suitable hay and have had to look to distance sources for hay. Some organic hay growers have opted to grow conventional hay to get better yields, further limiting the organic hay supply.
California Drought Produces Tastier Wine Grapes
The Wall Street Journal (New York), Oct 07, 2014
Vintners have not tasted such exquisite grapes as were produced this season since the last California drought in 2007-2009.
California dairy farmers struggling to survive prolonged drought
Los Angeles Times, Oct 03, 2014
Years of drought have driven California hay prices to record heights, threatening the viability of dairy farms. Organic farms are even more hard pressed to continue because organic feed is pricier than regular feed. Premium alfalfa sells for up to $350 per ton, up from $200 to $250 per ton in 2013. The cost of water on average in the Central Valley was 10 times higher than last year. Milk prices have risen as farmers pass along their increased costs, but during drought, farmers can only hang on so long. One to two percent of the dairy farmers in California went out of business in the past three years.
Decreased wheat production due to drought
The Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kan.), Oct 03, 2014
Drought early in the growing season hurt the Kansas winter wheat crop. Although 9.6 million acres were planted, just 8.8 million were harvested.
California harvest much smaller than normal across crops
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sep 28, 2014
Drought has curbed agricultural production in California during the state’s third year of drought because there was less water for irrigation. Production was down for rice, grapes, oranges, hay, corn, pistachios and almonds. The economists at UC Davis found in a study earlier this year that agriculture would likely suffer a $2.2 billion loss and higher water costs as an estimated 420,000 acres of farmland were left unplanted.

Business & Industry

California drought worries pool industry
Yahoo! Finance, Oct 05, 2014
The California pool industry is concerned that more than three dozen water agencies and cities have set rules on pool maintenance. In some cities, residents may not drain or refill pools or must cover pools with covers to reduce evaporation. While business is fine at present, people in the pool industry worry that ongoing drought will eventually hurt pool-related businesses. The California Pool & Spa Association says that pools use less water than traditionally irrigated lawns, and the use of a pool cover reduces evaporation by up to 90 percent.
Drying Up? Six Industries at Big Risk in California's Drought
NBC News, Sep 29, 2014

The industries most challenged by drought include organic dairies, golf courses, breweries, the rice industry, skiing and marijuana farms.

Construction delayed on canola processing plant, but project still is going forward (Enid, Oklahoma), Sep 17, 2014
Enid, Oklahoma
Construction of a canola processing plant in Enid has been delayed, in part, to the poor canola crop in the region. The past few years have been dry, which has hurt the canola and wheat crops. Work on the $250 million Northstar Agri Industries canola processing plant will continue at a later date.
Drought triggers produce woes at 99 Cents
Supermarket News (New York), Sep 11, 2014
The 99 Cents Only chain saw poorer performance during its second quarter of 2015 due to drought- related high produce prices. The CEO of 99 Cents Only stated that drought affected the chain’s “ability to continually stock right-priced produce.”
Cargill’s Annual Profits Slide 19%; Revenue Drops Too
Twin Cities Business (Minneapolis, Minn.), Aug 07, 2014
Cargill, producer of food and agricultural products, saw a 12 percent decline in its net earnings of $424 million for the fourth quarter, ending May 31, compared to $483 million for the fourth quarter in 2013. Revenue, however, was up 2 percent for the quarter to $36.2 billion, in comparison with $35.4 billion in 2013. The drop in fourth quarter earnings can be traced to adjustments the company made to cope with Venezuela’s change in currency exchange rates.
Cargill’s profits for the year were $1.87 billion, 19 percent lower than last year. The decrease occurred due to China’s rejection of some U.S. corn shipments, drought in the U.S. in 2013 and higher transportation expenses related to the railcar shortage.


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.
California may rely on more gas-fired generation due to drought
Reuters, Jan 10, 2014
With less water stored in California reservoirs, less hydropower will likely be produced in the state in 2014, leading to greater reliance on natural gas-fired power production.
In 2011, hydropower accounted for an above average 21.3 percent and natural gas was used for 45.4 percent of in-state electricity production. In 2012, dry conditions in California shifted the balance to 13.8 percent hydropower and 61.1 percent gas-fired generation. Hydropower is cheaper than gas-fired power.


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.
Pacific Northwest wildfire season: Oregon and Washington topped nation in acres burned
Oregon Live (Portland, Ore.), Sep 24, 2014
Washington, Oregon
Oregon and Washington endured 3,270 wildfires that burned 1,284,013 acres of federal, state and private land from the start of 2014 through Sept. 22, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The number of fires was lower than the 10-year average, but the spatial extent of the fires was nearly three times the 10-year average of 452,039 acres. The largest fire in each state was the Carlton Complex in Washington at 256,108 acres and the Buzzard Complex in southeastern Oregon at 395,747 acres. Both states have been affected by drought since the start of the year.
Total firefighting costs have risen to $446 million, in comparison with $235 million at this time last year, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Little rain makes for anxious fire officials
FOX6 WBRC-TV (Birmingham, Alabama), Aug 30, 2014
Dry conditions have allowed more fires than usual across Alabama, where summer is not normally a part of their fire season. During a recent seven-day period, 43 wildfires blackened more than 593 acres, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Lightning strikes in Northern California spark 34 new wildfires
Los Angeles Times, Aug 11, 2014
Northern California
Since the end of July, more than a dozen wildfires have blackened more than 100,000 acres in northern California.
California wildfires: Storms curb blazes as lightning starts new ones
Los Angeles Times, Aug 05, 2014
Northern California
As firefighters battled the flames, lightning started new fires, which prompted the California governor to declare a state of emergency in early August.

Plants & Wildlife

Dairy farmers ask for help with hungry elk
Capital Press (Salem, Oregon), Oct 13, 2014
Marin County, California
Organic dairy ranchers with livestock on agricultural land in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes seashore are frustrated with local tule elk which compete with livestock for the sparse vegetation. The ranchers are trying to get authorities to remove the elk and construct a fence to keep them out.
The Marin County agricultural commissioner has urged the Park Service to capture and relocate the 76 elk and fence them off the agricultural land, to no avail.
Region's ninth bear is tranquilized, removed
Bakersfield Californian, Oct 09, 2014
Around Bakersfield, California
A small black bear in a tree led a Bakersfield resident to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who darted the bear and relocated the 75-pound juvenile female bear 20 miles from the city. This was the ninth bear found in an inhabited area of Kern County in the past month. Drought is thought to be driving bears into residential area in search of food.
Scientists dive into work to protect salamanders
The Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas), Oct 08, 2014
San Marcos salamanders were collected from Spring Lake and were being housed in the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center’s refuge facilities to have some creatures in reserve in the event that a dramatic change would take place in their habitat, devastating the population. Drought has led to biologists to monitor the salamanders’ habitat more and think about how they could increase their holding capacity to keep more salamanders.
In wake of drought and fires, turtle habitat becomes death trap
Los Angeles Times, Oct 04, 2014
A drying lake in northern Los Angeles County has led to the deaths of many state-protected Western pond turtles, which were dying of starvation and conditions related to starvation, according to necropsies done by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. The lake is home to about 300 turtles, some of which have been rescued and kept at the Turtle Conservancy's Behler Chelonian Center in Ventura County.
California Tries Giant Water Coolers to Save Fish (Sacramento, Calif.), Oct 05, 2014
Giant water chillers were installed at the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery below Shasta Dam in northern California and at the American River hatchery near Sacramento to lower the water temperature to a tolerable level for baby salmon and other fish.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

IRS extends deadline for farmers forced to sell livestock due to drought
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sep 30, 2014
The Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for farmers and ranchers who had to sell livestock during drought. They now have an additional year to replace livestock and defer tax on any gains from the sales.
Brown vetoes $100 million boost for UC, Cal State
Beaumont Enterprise (Texas), Sep 27, 2014
Gov. Brown of California vetoed legislation that would have given $100 million to the University of California and California State University partly because the cost of firefighting has been excessive this year. The governor listed several other reasons for withholding the funds, saying that California’s aging infrastructure needed maintenance and the state has debts. Nearly 5,000 wildfires have scorched the state this year, up 26 percent from an average of about 3,900 fires, said state fire officials.
Governor Brown Streamlines Relief Efforts for Families with Drinking Water Shortages Due to Drought
Governor of California, Sep 19, 2014
The governor issued an executive order allowing families with dry wells to get funding through the California Disaster Assistance Act to get water for drinking and sanitation.
Brown signs bill to regulate pumping of underground water
Los Angeles Times, Sep 16, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a package of regulations instituting the management of groundwater pumping, which has been regulated in other western states. The three bills that he signed included SB 1168, which instructs local agencies to create management plans. AB 1739 establishes when the state can intervene if the local groups don't manage groundwater adequately. A third measure, SB 1319, is meant to dispel some farmers' concerns by postponing state action in places where surface water has been depleted by groundwater pumping.
The ongoing drought helped build the political will to develop and pass such legislation.
Sandoval forms panel to deal with drought
Las Vegas Sun, Sep 11, 2014
Western U.S.
The Western Drought Forum, a consortium of eight states, has been formed to address drought and find solutions to drought problems. An online library will be available to share case studies and best practices. The forum will also discuss preparedness and management.

Society & Public Health

Californians favor $7.5 billion water bond to fight drought: poll
Reuters, Oct 23, 2014

The majority of Californians support a $7.5 billion water bond to bolster the state’s depleted water supplies by constructing a new reservoir and underground storage projects. The poll involved 1,704 Californians and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

West Nile cases surging in state, Bay Area
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Oct 19, 2014
The number of California mosquitoes infected with the West Nile cases has risen to record heights this year, according to the California Department of Public Health. Santa Clara County has been a hot spot for birds carrying the West Nile virus, with more than one-third of the total affected birds statewide being found there. Throughout California, there have been 562 human cases of West Nile reported through Oct. 21, more than twice the count at this time in 2013. Seventeen deaths have been related to the virus since the start of the year, compared with 15 deaths in all of 2013.
Drought drains lake, reveals history
The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon), Oct 07, 2014
Drought lowered the level of Emigrant Lake, exposing remnants of a service station in what used to be Klamath Junction before the area was inundated with the construction of the reservoir. Old spark plugs, brakes and other similar items are nestled with stones Native Americans used for chipping arrowheads. The reservoir was at 10 percent of capacity and the lowest it has been since 1994. This has been one of the five driest seasons since the reservoir was constructed in 1924.
Drought-conscious residents turn the water tables on public agencies
Los Angeles Times, Sep 29, 2014
Los Angeles
Californians are increasingly turning to social media to document water waste by government agencies. While government agencies are striving to limit their water use as they are supposed to do, broken sprinkler heads and such sometimes undermine good efforts and intentions. Even stricter limits on water use by city departments will come within the next week, said a spokesman for the Los Angeles mayor.
Another drought casualty: No chance to make key air standard
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Sep 27, 2014
San Joaquin Valley in California
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District cannot achieve a key federal air standard after the unusually dry 2013-14 winter brought a lengthy episode of stagnant air and high levels of soot and other microscopic debris. The district’s governing board has requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency postpone the deadline until 2019.

Tourism & Recreation

As drought continues, boat ramps close on area lakes
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Oct 17, 2014
Dallas-Fort Worth area
Ongoing drought has dropped lake levels to the point that many boat ramps were no longer useable in north central Texas. The last accessible boat ramp at Eagle Mountain Lake was closed mid-September when water levels fell to a critical point.
At Benbrook Lake, the only open boat ramp was at Mustang Park. Many boat ramps were closed at Lake Grapevine, but most ramps were still open at Joe Pool Lake, Lewisville Lake and Lake Ray Roberts.
Worsening California drought starting to limit outdoor recreation
San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 17, 2014
Numerous California lakes and parks continue to feel the pain of the ongoing drought. Yosemite Falls has gone dry; many parks have porta potties for use, instead of flush toilets; and boat ramps were closed. Many plants were also showing drought stress by turning color and dropping leaves early.
Soaking up Catalina, tourists pose dilemma
The Bend Bulletin (Oregon), Aug 14, 2014
Catalina Island, California
Water users in Avalon were told to cut their water use by 25 percent as the city moved into stage 2 mandatory water restrictions on Aug. 11 as the island’s reservoir neared a record low. Since Avalon is a popular tourist destination, it is imperative that the island’s 1 million tourists also conserve along with the town’s 4,000 year-round residents.
To educate visitors about the scarce water supply, signs were posted in hotel rooms asking guests to keep showers brief. Some restaurants began serving food on paper plates and sell customers bottled water for 50 cents when customers request water. Hotels plan to begin sending laundry to the mainland rather than washing it in Avalon.
Drought forces some boats from shrinking Great Salt Lake in Utah
Reuters, Aug 05, 2014
Great Salt Lake, Utah
At least 70 boats had been removed from the Great Salt Lake Park Marina as the lake dips to its lowest level in more than 50 years.
Tahoe Queen runs aground with 257 on board
Lake Tahoe News (South Lake Tahoe, California), Aug 04, 2014
Lake Tahoe
About 300 people were rescued on South Lake Tahoe on Aug. 4 after the paddlewheel boat they were on ran aground onto a sand bar. The boat, its crew and 257 passengers were stranded roughly 600 yards from Regan Beach.

Water Supply & Quality

Water authority stops pumping from Meredith
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Texas), Oct 15, 2014
The general manager of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority stopped drawing water from Lake Meredith to conserve water for use next year. The lake is presently at 5 percent of capacity and is rather salty.
Californians make big cuts in water usage, report says
Los Angeles Times, Oct 07, 2014
Californians curbed water use by 11.5 percent in August, compared with the previous year, for more water savings than in previous months. Parts of Southern California made substantial progress in water conservation, from using 8 percent more water in May to using 7.8 percent less in August. Five months ago, Gov. Brown urged residents to cut their water use by 20 percent, putting Californians a little more than halfway to the goal.
New drought tool: pay farmers not to irrigate (Texas), Oct 01, 2014
The Edwards Aquifer Authority will offer the Voluntary Irrigation Suspension Program Option in 2015. The program conserves water in the aquifer by giving payments to farmers and other heavy water users in exchange for them not irrigating. The VISPO became an option for irrigators because the J-17 index well in Bexar County fell below the historic average of 630.6 feet above sea level, triggering the use of the no-irrigation program. Land owners will leave about 39,000 acre-feet in the aquifer, or nearly 7 percent of the EAA’s total permitted pumping. Farmers and others will receive $8 million from pumping and customer fees and contributions.
Drought has 14 communities on the brink of waterlessness
Los Angeles Times, Sep 25, 2014
This year the California State Water Resources Control Board began tracking communities that could run out of water within 60 days, underscoring the severity of the drought. Some towns have gone on and off the list, but 14 locations remained on the “critical water systems” list and were having water brought in for residents. Some communities that have been on or were still on the list include Parkwood in Madera County, Montague in Siskiyou County, Arroyo Seco Resort in Monterey County, Lake Berryessa Resort in Napa and Woodside RV Park in Mendocino County.
Valley residents report drying wells
Idaho Mountain Express (Ketchum, Idaho), Sep 24, 2014
Near Ketchum, Idaho
Wood River Valley residents had low water pressure and discolored water streaming from their faucets as the area’s water table drops and wells run dry. Older homes with shallower wells seem to be having more problems as two relatively dry winters have depleted groundwater levels.


Worst drought in 40 years puts more than 2 million people in Central America at risk
ReliefWeb (New York), Oct 11, 2014
Central America
More than 2 million people in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador were food insecure because drought devastated agricultural and livestock production. Families are desperate for food, and most farmers will not be able to plant and harvest a crop until August 2015.
Drought conditions creeping south, taking a toll on grain crops (Kansas City, Mo.), Oct 08, 2014
Drought is spreading from parts of Queensland and New South Wales to the south in western Victoria, south-eastern South Australia and areas of Tasmania and Western Australia. The national grain crop may be down about 10 percent from last year’s harvest of 43 million tons.
Coffee Futures Surge to 32-Month High Amid Brazilian Crop Woes
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Oct 06, 2014
Coffee futures hit a 32-month high because it is feared that ongoing drought will hamper Brazil’s harvest next year. Arabica coffee prices have nearly doubled this year with crops suffering from below normal precipitation since the start of the year. Starbucks Corp. and J.M. Smucker Co. increased retail prices this year after futures climbed 61 percent in the first quarter.
Household Debt and Signs of Drought Squeeze Economy in Thailand
The New York Times, Oct 06, 2014
The rainy season brought fewer storms, about half the historical average, leaving the dam near Chiang Mai at 17 percent of capacity. Farmers were warned not to plant a second rice crop because there was not enough water, but some of the blame for the low reservoir levels seems to rest on the shoulders of the previous government, which opted to release a lot of water to avoid flooding, said an expert on rice cultivation at the Thailand Development Research Institute.
Malaysian dams are similarly low.
Tilapia production falls due to drought
Fish Info & Services (Tokyo), Sep 30, 2014
Tilapia production was down 30 percent at fish farms in São Paulo state where about 22,000 tons of fish are produced annually.


Can planners stop drought harming the tourist dollar?
environmentalresearchweb (Bristol, U.K.), Nov 18, 2013

Tourism and recreation industry representatives should be involved in drought preparedness activities for the benefit of the state and the tourist/recreation industry.
Gold found growing in eucalyptus trees in world-first CSIRO research
Australian Broadcast Corporation, Oct 23, 2013
Eucalyptus trees in Australia were found to have particles of gold in the trees’ leaves, twigs and bark. The trees’ roots grew down 30 meters to find moisture and tapped into gold underground.
Pollen Study Points to Drought as Culprit in Bronze Age Mystery
The New York Times, Oct 22, 2013
Fossilized pollen revealed that drought probably led to the collapse of civilization in modern-day Israel.
Extreme weather can be the 'most important cause of poverty'
BBC News (London), Oct 15, 2013

Research by the Overseas Development Institute revealed that drought and other extreme weather events will be the primary cause of poverty in 2030 and will hinder work to eradicate poverty.
Massive spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado tied to drought, according to new CU study
University of Colorado Boulder, Oct 10, 2013
Research from the University of Colorado in Boulder found that high in the northern Colorado mountains, drought was the main trigger for a massive spruce beetle outbreak.


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.
FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: Cover crops boost yield in dry years
The Quincy Herald-Whig (Ill.), Aug 21, 2013
The use of cover crops boosted agricultural output in drought-stricken areas in 2012. In the fall of 2012 from a survey of more than 750 farmers in the Midwest, corn crops planted after cover crops yielded 9.6 percent more corn in comparison with side-by-side fields without cover crops. Soybean yields were 11.6 percent higher following cover crops.
In the driest parts of the Corn Belt, the differences were even more striking, with an 11 percent increase in yield for corn and a 14.3 percent yield increase for soybeans.
Drought Headlines Archive

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