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 Archive
Drought Monitor: Improvements focused on Southwest
Farm Progress (St. Charles, Ill.), Jul 23, 2015
Drought worsened in parts of the Southeast and eastern Dakotas, but improved in western New Mexico, northern Arizona and in California along the Arizona border.
Massive El Niño growing, say models
USA Today, Jul 10, 2015
A strong El Niño, rivaling that of 1997 when Northern California saw intense flooding, may be developing and could bring desperately needed precipitation to California next winter.
Report: Statewide drought ends
Odessa American (Texas), May 11, 2015
The Texas Water Development Board announced that the state was no longer in drought as gauged by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. Texas has endured drought since 2011.
Drought dings quality of winter wheat in Northwest
Seattle.pi (Wash.), Jul 20, 2015
Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana
Drought-affected wheat in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana produced smaller kernels with a higher than desired protein content. The National Agricultural Statistics Service found much of the region’s winter wheat to be below average in quality.
The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, S.C.), Jul 12, 2015
In Calhoun and Orangeburg counties in central South Carolina, the dryland corn failed due to the hot, dry weather. In some areas, farmers were already feeding hay to cattle.
Hawaii drought, record temperatures hurting Maui ranchers
Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, Hawaii), Jul 08, 2015
Hot, dry weather has led leeward Maui ranchers to downsize their herds from 1,500 cattle five years ago to just 1,300 head. A ranch manager said that he would be moving cattle to another ranch because there was not enough dry food for the cattle.
Situation growing desperate for Lower Valley water supplier
Yakima Herald (Wash.), Jul 08, 2015
Yakima County, Washington
Farmland in the Wapato Irrigation District in Yakima County was not thriving with rationed water supplies. Some corn was brown and stunted, while in other fields the crop did not grow. A field consultant told one farmer to expect a 70 percent loss. Cows were being fed hay at a time of year when pasture grass ought to easily sustain the cattle.
Business & Industry
California drought brings a golden lining
The Sacramento Bee, Jun 22, 2015
Sierra Nevada, California
Low water levels in California’s drought-sapped rivers and streams have exposed more riverbed for prospectors seeking gold. Some stretches have become too dry for panning and sluicing, but in the meantime, prospectors keep finding new areas rich with gold. Hardware and mining supply stores from Columbia in Tuolumne County to Auburn in Placer County benefited from the renewed interest of locals and tourists hoping to find a few pieces of gold.
Bottled-water business grows during drought
Redding Record Searchlight (Calif.), May 10, 2015
Californians were becoming increasingly outraged at companies bottling and selling the state’s water amid a four year drought. Crystal Geyser Water Co. was opening a plant at the base of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County and intends to take up to 365,000 gallons of groundwater daily, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Nearby residents worry that the plant will run their wells dry.
California pool, hot tub filling bans have industries steaming
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), May 10, 2015
Bay Area pool builders and hot tub retailers were struggling to keep customers from cancelling construction contracts as water restrictions and intense drought deter people from using water. Contractors have also had to find new sources of water to fill the pools, given that water restrictions prohibit the use of potable water for pool and hot tub filling.
California Golf Courses Tee Up Water-Saving Measures
Associated Press, May 13, 2015
California’s golf courses were tearing out turf and replacing it with drought-tolerant landscaping to cut down drastically on water use and the cost of irrigation and maintain an attractive appearance. The landscaping change is being carried out in areas where play will not be affected.
Turf replacement rebate programs have golf courses snapping up the assistance with landscaping costs because they can be reimbursed $2 to $3 for each square foot of turf removed.
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.
Drought Shutters Hydro Power Generation
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nev.), Jul 30, 2014
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.
The West is so dry even a rain forest is on fire
The Washington Post, Jul 13, 2015
Washington's Olympic National Park
The Paradise Fire, burning nearly 1,600 acres in Olympic National Park, was believed to have been sparked by lightning around May 15 and continued to smolder in one of the wettest parts of the U.S., where the park’s western slopes usually receive 150 inches of rain annually.
Full containment of the fire may not be achieved until Sept. 30, said the National Wildfire Coordinating Group website.
Private timberlands temporarily closed by fire danger
The Spokane Spokesman-Review (Wash.), Jul 11, 2015
Several timber companies, holding more than one million acres of land, have closed their property to public access, due to the extreme fire danger. The companies include Stimson Lumber Company, Potlach Corporation and Weyerhaeuser.
Firefighters prepare for dangerous fire season
Salem Statesman Journal (Ore.), Jul 06, 2015
More than 98 lightning-sparked fires and at least 270 human-caused fires have burned in Oregon from the start of 2015 through June. There were 167 more fires than the 10-year average for that time period, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Plants & Wildlife
Record heat, drought a fatal combination for fish across the West
Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jul 08, 2015
Nearly three-quarters of the lower reaches of 54 rivers in Oregon, California and Washington surveyed by the Wild Fish Conservancy were warmer than 70 degrees, dangerously high for salmon and trout. Roughly 50 dead sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Deschutes River appeared to have died from gill rot, a condition exacerbated by warm water. Emergency fishing closures were under consideration for the lower Merced, the American and the Klamath rivers in California. While well-meaning people in Washington have constructed impromptu rock dams to collect cool water for fish, staff from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was out clearing away the rocks to allow the fish to move upstream to spawn.
Bears search for food closer to town amid drought
Great Falls Tribune (Mont.), Jul 01, 2015
The lack of rain reduced berry crops around Missoula, leading black bears to search for food nearer to residential areas than usual. A few bears were euthanized. Grizzly bears, on the other hand, were less of a problem because the snow melted early, giving them access to higher elevations to search for food.
California Drought Killed 12 Million Forest Trees Since Last Year
KPBS (San Diego), May 04, 2015
An April aerial survey performed by the U.S. forest Service found that roughly 12 million trees in California’s forestlands died within the last year due to extreme drought.
In Cleveland, San Bernardino, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests, an estimated 2 million dead trees were seen. Across 4.1 million acres in the Southern Sierra Nevada, surveyors spotted approximately 10 million dead trees.
California drought: Delta smelt survey finds a single fish, heightening debate over water supply
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Apr 15, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
The March trawl survey for adult smelt conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found only four females and two males in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The April survey turned up just one fish. Counts of longfin smelt have also fallen to record lows.
Early in April, the State Water Resources Board chose to limit Sierra runoff to the estuary, due to drought, and depriving fish of the cold, fresh water that enhances survival.
Drought prompts truck and release of salmon smolts in Rio Vista
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Mar 26, 2015
Twelve million juvenile Chinook salmon were being trucked from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson to Rio Vista in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because the warm flow of Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River, is too low. The 3-inch long smolts would likely perish before they reached the delta, leaving very few to return as adults in three years to reproduce. Six trucks will take approximately 22 working days to deliver the fish to the delta, with the project to be finished by mid-May. Salmon were also transported to the delta in the spring of 2014.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
California drought: High court hands setback to water conservation fight
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jul 23, 2015
The California Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling, making it unconstitutional for water providers to charge more for water than it costs to provide the service. California water officials urged the Supreme Court to “depublish” the ruling to allow water providers to punish water wasters with higher water rates and encourage conservation.
Catawba County’s drought status worsens
Hickory Daily Record (N.C.), Jul 21, 2015
North and South Carolina
Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group changed the status of the Catawba-Wateree River basin to Stage 1. Water users were urged to voluntarily conserve water, and Duke Energy made operational adjustments.
The updated drought status reflects declining water storage and below normal stream flows, due to low rainfall and high temperatures.
California proposes historic $1.5M fine for taking water
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Jul 20, 2015
The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in the eastern San Francisco Bay area may be fined $1.5 million for taking more water than it is entitled to take, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. If the fine stands, it would be the first against a holder of a claim dating back more than a century.
All of South Carolina now under drought status
The Manning Times (S.C.), Jul 17, 2015
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee considered all of the state to be in incipient or moderate drought during a July 16 meeting.
Society & Public Health
Tankers pumping water in drought anger residents near Porterville
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Jul 22, 2015
Tulare County, California
Residents of Jones Corner, a small community near Porterville in Tulare County, were angered by the trucks hauling water from their well to East Porterville, where many domestic wells ran dry in past years. Jones Corner residents park cars in front of the well to prevent trucks from drawing water or follow trucks to see where they deliver the water. Water truck drivers have been threatened by furious residents. In one instance, a rock was thrown at a water truck, breaking a side window.
Groundwater pumping causing Central Valley bridges to sink
KFSN - ABC30 (Fresno, Calif.), Jul 21, 2015
Fresno County, California
The Russell Avenue bridge in western Fresno County was in the water because excessive pumping caused the land and bridge to sink. Boaters used to be able to float beneath the bridge, but no longer can.
DROUGHT: $350 million turf rebate program tapped out
Riverside Press-Enterprise (Calif.), Jul 08, 2015
The Metropolitan Water District announced the closing of the turf rebate program because the $350 million in funds has been spent in about one week since the money became available July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
California’s rural poor hit hardest as massive drought makes remaining water toxic
The Washington Post , Jul 05, 2015
Residents a trailer park south of Palm Springs have been warned about the arsenic in their community well, but the ongoing drought has concentrated the arsenic, raising the level to twice the acceptable amount. A 4-year old boy developed bumps on his head from being bathed in the arsenic-laden water.
Roughly 1,200 homes in Tulare County were still using temporary water tanks to provide water after wells went dry, and nearly that many homes were still without running water. The tanks have been used for a year and were intended to be a temporary measure.
California cities show biggest water savings yet in drought
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Jul 01, 2015
Californians’ best showing in water conservation occurred in May with a 29 percent reduction in water use, compared to 2013. The May conservation effort exceeded the governor’s April order to curb water use by 25 percent. May rains could have influenced the conservation rate, with fewer people watering lawns.
Tourism & Recreation
Afternoon fishing to be shut down on Oregon rivers
Salem Statesman-Journal (Ore.), Jul 16, 2015
Fishing was prohibited or limited on more than 30 rivers in Washington to protect fish amid ongoing drought. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the closures and restrictions, which began on July 18, would remain in effect until further notice.
Afternoon fishing on most Oregon rivers and creeks was suspended by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sturgeon fishing was temporarily prohibited on the Columbia River upstream of the Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. Oregon and Washington fishery managers found increased drought-related sturgeon mortality in some mid-Columbia River reservoirs.
Washington restricts fishing on many rivers due to drought
Everett Herald (Wash.), Jul 16, 2015
Fishing was prohibited or limited on more than 30 rivers in Washington to protect fish amid ongoing drought. River levels were low and water temperatures warm after a winter of little snowpack and runoff. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the closures and restrictions, which began on July 18, would remain in effect until further notice.
Truckee turmoil: 'Rest your river' to salvage fishery
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Jul 07, 2015
Truckee River in western Nevada
Trout in the Truckee River were confined by drought and warm water temperatures to the few areas of cooler water in the river. To protect the fish, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has asked anglers to fish less during the warmer parts of the day. The flow of the Truckee River in Reno was just 44 cubic feet per second, compared to the average flow of 563 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Water Supply & Quality
Return of Drought Restrictions May be Around the Corner
WOAI-AM 1200 News Radio (San Antonio, Texas), Jul 19, 2015
South central Texas
With the Edwards Aquifer dropping at a rate of 0.5 to 0.8 feet daily, stage one drought restrictions could be enacted within a week. Plentiful rain in May and early June bumped the aquifer up to 672 feet, but it has since fallen to 663 feet. Stage one restrictions would be triggered when the aquifer dips below 660 feet.
Drought concerns trigger fight over possible Lake O pumping
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel & SouthFlorida.com, Jul 16, 2015
The South Florida Water Management District requested permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to install emergency pumps to pull water from Lake Okeechobee. The lake was about 1.7 feet above the point at which pumps would be needed to move water south for agriculture and to replenish water supplies for the Seminole Tribe, West Palm Beach and other cities.
California OKs drought curb on Sacramento River flows
The Sacramento Bee, Jul 08, 2015
Sacramento River, California
The State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan to keep more water in Lake Shasta to help endangered fish. With less water leaving Lake Shasta, farmers will get an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 acre-feet less water during the growing season.
Farmers and elected officials besought the water board for more water, fearing that the reduced water flow would severely damage the agricultural economy. Environmentalists and the fishing industry were a bit skeptical of the plan, too, because it allows water temperatures to rise to 58 degrees, two degrees higher than the normal limit, which may not protect the fish.
California water rates rise as cities lose money in drought
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com) , Jul 05, 2015
Californians were not seeing their water bills shrink despite lower water use because utilities have fixed costs that must be covered. Since cities were ordered to trim water use from 8 to 36 percent, revenue statewide was expected to drop $1 billion, which will likely come from customers.
Cuban reservoirs far below capacity amid drought
Fox News Latino, Jul 22, 2015
A relatively dry May and June in Cuba has exacerbated an existing dry spell, with reservoirs falling to 37 percent of capacity. The western part of the island has been driest, and the central and eastern parts were only marginally better off.
Swiss Army Airlifts Water to Cows Facing Drought, Hot Weather
NBC News, Jul 22, 2015
Swiss transport helicopters flew in nearly 24,000 gallons of water to thirsty cows in southern Switzerland because little rain fell in the past four to five weeks. River and groundwater levels have dropped, leaving little water for the animals grazing in meadows at 4,000 feet above sea level.
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.
Drought Headlines Archive
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.
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.