Monday, December 11, 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

Arctic sea ice melt to exacerbate California droughts: study
Reuters, Dec 05, 2017

California may be more susceptible to droughts in the future as Arctic sea ice melts and causes changes in atmospheric circulation, which may result in the formation of ridges that deflect storms away from the coast of California.

From deluge to drought: Texas endures severe drought after Harvey
USA Today, Dec 04, 2017

In the three months since Hurricane Harvey inundated southeastern Texas with more than five feet of rain in some spots, weather has been dry and warm, leading to the development of drought across the state.

Driest fall, warmest November on record in Phoenix
CBS 5 AZ KPHO (Phoenix), Dec 01, 2017

Fall was incredibly dry in Arizona with Phoenix, Flagstaff, Prescott and Payson not seeing any measurable rainfall since Aug. 23.

Dry November causing Mississippi drought
WLOX-TV ABC 13 (Biloxi, Miss.), Dec 01, 2017

South Mississippi was very dry in November with Biloxi receiving just 0.78 inches of rain, in comparison with the monthly average of just under 5 inches.  This was Biloxi’s driest November since 1893.

November was the warmest on record for Albuquerque
Albuquerque Journal (N.M.), Nov 30, 2017
New Mexico

New Mexico had warm, dry weather through the month of November, with Albuquerque going 55 days without measurable precipitation.  The city’s longest stretch of dry weather was 109 days, which occurred in 1909.


Dry temperatures effecting wheat crops in the Panhandle
KFDA-TV News Channel 10 (Amarillo, Texas), Dec 07, 2017
Texas Panhandle

The wheat crop and rangelands in the Texas Panhandle have dried out quickly as rain continued to miss the area, leading producers to move their livestock off dry land pastures.

Drought stress seen in some wheat, canola fields
Enid News (Okla.), Dec 03, 2017

Developing drought in Oklahoma threatened wheat and canola fields in the northwest part of the state.  Some of the wheat was spindly and stunted or had discolored leaves.  The poor condition of the wheat posed a problem for producers hoping to graze cattle on the wheat.

'It's powderhouse dry': North Louisiana's historically dry fall
Shreveport Times (La.), Dec 04, 2017
Northern Louisiana

Cattle producers in northern Louisiana were concerned about water supplies for their herds as small ponds might not be able to meet demand, leading some farmers to rely on well water. Cool-season grasses, such as rye and clover, were not germinating, leading cattle producers to offer supplemental feed to their livestock.

Break-even year expected for corn despite drought conditions
Mitchell Republic (S.D.), Nov 17, 2017
South Dakota

Despite a droughty growing season in South Dakota, corn farmers were feeling pretty good about their yields.  In early November, the National Agriculture Statistics Service estimated an average of 150 bushels per acre for South Dakota, which is considerably below the estimated national average of 175.4 bpa.

Drought means another tough year for Maine bees
Bangor Daily News (Maine), Nov 17, 2017

Drought hampered bees’ ability to make honey in parts of Maine, noted a honey dealer and the state apiarist with the Maine Department of Agriculture, but the final production was not known.  The amount was expected to be lower than 2016. 

A Portland beekeeper said that he harvested just 30 pounds of honey from six hives, whereas his harvest two years ago was 225 pounds.  Other beekeepers have had similar drops in production.

Business & Industry

Bankers: Drought Still Burdening Rural Economy in 10 States
U.S. News & World Report, Aug 17, 2017
Plains and Midwest

The overall Rural Mainstreet Index for 10 Plains and Midwestern states rose from July’s 40.7 to 42.2 in August.  Any number below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.  Nearly 58 percent of bankers who participated in the August survey felt that drought conditions were negatively impacting agricultural products in their area.  Surveyors consulted bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

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.


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.


Just subtract water - how a dry spell allowed winds to lash California with flames
Reuters, Dec 07, 2017
Southern California

The Los Angeles area has received 0.11 inches—just a tiny fraction of the more than 2 inches of precipitation normally received since Oct. 1—leading to a parched landscape ready to burn, given the ample dry vegetation after a rainy spring.

Nearly Half Of Arkansas Counties Under Burn Ban
KFSM-TV CBS 5 Fort Smith (Ark.), Nov 27, 2017

Most Arkansas counties had burn bans in effect as drought conditions, low humidity and winds have increased the fire risk.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 1,805 acres burned, with that wildfire activity bringing the November fire tally to more than 3,100 acres.

Drought expands and worsens across the ArkLaTex
KSLA-TV Shreveport News 12 (La.), Oct 12, 2017

As drought persisted in the ArkLaTex region, burn bans were in effect for a number of counties.  Some of the affected counties include Columbia, Hempstead and Howard in Arkansas; Caddo, Desoto and Webster in Louisiana; and Cass and Marion in Texas.

22 Arkansas counties impose burn bans as state's wildfire risk increases
Arkansas Online (Little Rock, Ark.), Oct 04, 2017

Dry conditions led to fire restrictions in 22 Arkansas counties.

As leaves pile up, dry conditions force burn ban
WKBN-TV (Youngstown, Ohio), Oct 03, 2017

The dry conditions in Ohio prompted the issuance of a statewide burn ban.  Apart from the dry weather, the Ohio Forestry Department considers October and November to be wildfire season in Ohio.

Plants & Wildlife

2.4 million trees are dead in Yosemite National Park
San Francisco Chronicle (, Nov 08, 2017
Yosemite National Park, California

The latest fall count found 2.4 million dead trees on about 131,000 acres of Yosemite National Park, said the park spokesman. This is the highest number of dead trees ever recorded in the park and was blamed on persistent drought, warming temperatures, poor forest health and native bark beetles.

Drought may have aided storm that walloped Maine, Northeast
Greenwich Time (Conn.), Nov 01, 2017

Drought, recent rainfall and an unusual storm path in Maine may have played a role in the large numbers of trees that fell during a storm that blasted the Northeast.  The dry weather left the trees’ roots in an unhealthy state, while the ground conditions and leaves still on the trees made them more vulnerable to wind damage.

Scientists say few spring-run salmon in Feather River likely due to heat, drought
Chico Enterprise Record (Calif.), Oct 22, 2017
Northern California

Drought and heat were blamed for the poor return of spring-run salmon to the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, where the low fish count was even worse than predicted.

On brink of pheasant season, South Dakota bracing for drastically reduced bag
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Oct 19, 2017
South Dakota

The previous harsh winter and parched summer has cut down the pheasant population in parts of South Dakota to about one-third of the ten-year average.  There is concern that poor pheasant counts will draw fewer nonresidents for the hunt, depriving South Dakota of millions in economic activity.

FWP expects local fishery to recover
Havre Daily News (Mont.), Oct 13, 2017
Near Havre, Montana

The summer of heat and drought dropped water levels and hurt fish populations in Fresno Reservoir, Bear Paw Lake and Beaver Creek Reservoir near Havre.  Recent surveys showed the population of forage fish—young perch, crappie and shiner—in Fresno Reservoir was diminished by drought.  Fresno Reservoir dropped to a low of 13 percent of capacity in mid-August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but the reservoir has since rebounded to 48.3 percent on Oct. 12.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

North Carolina either abnormally dry or in moderate drought (S.C.), Nov 30, 2017
North Carolina

North Carolina’s Drought Management Advisory Council advised that the counties in drought take precautions to limit water use to extend existing water supplies.

Aiken County drought status upgraded to 'incipient'
Aiken Standard (S.C.), Nov 27, 2017
South Carolina

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee recognized 15 counties as entering incipient drought during a Nov. 27 conference call.

Senator calls for more USDA workers to respond to drought
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Oct 20, 2017
Western North Dakota

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supply more workers to western North Dakota, where understaffed Farm Service Agency offices were facing a crushing workload after a summer of exceptional drought.

It’s rained a lot, but there’s a moderate drought in Wake, surrounding counties.
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), Oct 19, 2017
North Carolina

The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council issued a moderate drought advisory for a dozen counties in the northern Piedmont.  The area typically receives 35 to 40 inches of rain by this time, but has only gotten 25 to 30 inches this year.

Drought watch declared throughout Shenandoah Valley
WHSV-TV (Harrisonburg, Va.), Oct 11, 2017

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a drought watch for the Shenandoah Valley and the Middle James and Roanoke River regions. The drought watch is intended to raise public awareness of conditions, which could lead to significant drought events.

Society & Public Health

North Dakota drought delays reclamation of Cold War site
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Nov 15, 2017
North Dakota

Drought and an inability to get grass growing at the site of a Cold War-era base in Divide County has prevented the full reclamation of the Fortuna Air Force Station. Grass must be seeded on an inert waste disposal pit, but a contractor’s seeding in July did not survive. County workers have since reseeded the area.

The base in northwestern Divide County was activated in 1952 as a radar facility during the Cold War. Before partial deactivation in 1979, Fortuna AFS had long-range and height-finder radar, data and backup systems. The site was decommissioned and abandoned in 1984.

More ink, less water: News coverage of the drought prompted Californians to conserve, study suggests
Los Angeles Times, Oct 27, 2017

The more news coverage of California’s drought, the more Californians conserved, according to research by Stanford University.

Here’s California’s plan to save motorists from toppling trees at Tahoe
The Sacramento Bee, Aug 22, 2017
Lake Tahoe area, California

California crews plan to cut down dead and drought-weakened trees along highways in the Tahoe Basin starting in September as part of the statewide movement to remove dangerous trees along highways.  Efforts will be focused on Highway 89, where a tree fell and killed a woman in her car, and other area highways.  Caltrans has already taken out more than 100,000 dead trees in the Golden State, mostly on state property along highways as part of a $115 million safety campaign.  Removing dangerous trees on private property will be the next step.  Caltrans identified Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Placer, Tulare and Tuolumne counties as areas of particularly high risk for falling trees.

Hold the Bagel! Higher Costs Make 2018 a Great Time to Cut Carbs
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Jul 26, 2017

Benchmark wheat futures in Chicago remained 18 percent higher for the year, due to drought, and will likely mean costlier bagels and pizza crusts in 2018.  In Minneapolis, the price for spring wheat was up 37 percent for the year. 

Four water main breaks in four days
Osceola Sentinel-Tribune (Iowa), Jul 20, 2017
Osceola, Iowa

The hot, dry weather has caused soils to shift in south central Iowa, leading to four water main breaks in four days, stated Osceola Water Works Superintendent Brandon Patterson.

Tourism & Recreation

Arkansas Wildlife Waterfowl Report
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (Little Rock, Ark.), Nov 29, 2017

The unusually dry conditions in Arkansas have made duck hunting “nearly impossible.”  In many areas, there is too little water to draw ducks and no hope of much precipitation in the forecast.

Corn Palace murals nearly complete after delay from drought
KSFY-TV ABC 13 Sioux Falls (S.D.), Nov 08, 2017
South Dakota

Drought slowed the delivery of corn for the Corn Palace murals in Mitchell, putting the decorators about a week behind schedule. Drought threatened the corn during the summer, but eventually rain did fall and salvage the crop.

Big game season going well, bird population affected by drought
Havre Daily News (Mont.), Nov 03, 2017
Near Havre, Montana

Drought reduced pheasant, grouse and Hungarian partridge harvest counts to about 50 percent across the board, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer. Pheasants were down 47 percent in the long-term, sharp-tailed grouse were down 58 percent, while Hungarian pheasants were down 52 percent. He felt that the drought conditions hurt the survival of the young birds.

Pheasant numbers suffer from Montana drought
Ravalli Republic (Mont.), Oct 03, 2017
Eastern Montana

Pheasant habitat in eastern Montana was severely affected by drought, which lowered brood success.   The final results of the brood survey have not been published, but the brood count was down significantly.

Drought affects duck hunting wetlands in the Northern Plains
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Sep 22, 2017
Northern Plains

Drought decreased the number of duck-hunting wetlands in North Dakota by about 40 percent, compared to 2016, found the Game and Fish Department from their annual fall wetland survey.

Water Supply & Quality

Water restrictions soon could be lifted
Charlottesville Daily Progress (Va.), Nov 14, 2017
Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Virginia

Since the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir reached capacity on Nov. 1 and stayed full for two weeks, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority felt that the water restrictions for Albemarle County and Charlottesville were no longer needed. Mandatory restrictions in Albemarle County could end as soon as Nov. 17 and in Charlottesville as early as Nov. 21.

Napa approves five years of rate hikes for city water
Napa Valley Register (Calif.), Nov 08, 2017
Napa, California

The Napa City Council approved higher water rates to compensate for reduced water sales and revenue after years of drought.  Revenue from water sales dropped from $27 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to $22.2 million in 2016-17, $6.7 million less than the city predicted as the state endured drought and water conservation mandates.

CT Aquarion customers told to reduce water usage
WFSB-TV CBS Channel 3 (Hartford, Conn.), Oct 18, 2017
Greenwich, Connecticut

Aquarion Water Company asked its water customers in Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Stamford to turn off their irrigation systems and sprinklers for the year, due to developing drought.  The Greenwich reservoir system was at 48 percent of capacity, below the average of 67 percent, and the Stamford reservoir system was at 61 percent, slightly below its average of 71 percent.  The low reservoir levels were due to the lack of rainfall and increased irrigation while the weather remained unseasonably warm.

ACSA Declares Water Emergency Due to Drought
WVIR-TV NBC29 (Charlottesville, Va.), Oct 09, 2017
Albemarle County, Virginia

The Albemarle County Service Authority Board of Directors declared a water emergency, due to the drought, on Oct. 9. Mandatory water restrictions will soon take effect. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was requested to approve the declaration of emergency during their board meeting on Oct. 11.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority previously declared a drought warning stage and drought emergency.

Officials Place Charlottesville Area Under Drought Warning
WVIR-TV NBC29 (Charlottesville, Va.), Oct 05, 2017
Charlottesville, Virginia

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority declared a drought warning for the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area because the water level of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir continued to fall.


Dry Weather Hits Argentina Crops
DTN - The Progressive Farmer (Minneapolis, Minn.), Dec 07, 2017

Dry weather slowed soybean planting in Argentina, but farmers harvesting wheat and barley have appreciated the dry conditions. 

Will Cape Town Run Out of Water?
Bloomberg, Dec 07, 2017
South Africa

Without significant rainfall, Cape Town, a city of four million inhabitants, is on track to run out of water in May 2018, which is one to two months before winter rains begin.

Somalia's Puntland region declares state of emergency over drought
Reuters, Dec 05, 2017

A state of emergency was declared in the Puntland region of Somalia as drought caused shortages of food and water.

After drought, monster storm threatens Australia's wheat crop
Reuters, Nov 30, 2017

Severe drought in Australia earlier in the year hindered wheat yields with the harvest expected to be the smallest in a decade.

Cuba begins harvest of weather-battered sugar crop
Reuters, Nov 27, 2017

After 18 months of drought and damage from Hurricane Irma, Cuba’s sugar cane harvest is expected to be poor.  The sugar harvest typically occurs from November through May.


Changes in water consumption linked to heavy news media coverage of extreme climatic events
Science Advances, Oct 25, 2017

Greater media coverage of drought in California resulted in greater water conservation in the San Francisco Bay area.

NAU Study: Fungi Helps Pinyon Pines Survive Drought
KNAU (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Oct 18, 2017

Certain species of fungi helped trees pull water and nutrients from the soil, allowing the trees to be more drought-resistant.

Researchers map wells across the West and estimate 1 out of every 30 has gone dry
Palm Springs Desert Sun (Calif.), Sep 29, 2017
Western U.S.

Of the roughly 2 million wells in 17 western states from Texas to Oregon, an estimated one in 30 was dry between 2013 and 2015, found researchers from Stanford University and the University of Calgary.

Kansas well owners, non-well owners have different watering routines during droughts, study finds
The University of Kansas , Aug 15, 2017

Well ownership was found to be tied to increased watering during droughts and that water conservation varied among those owning different types of wells, found Brock Ternes, a KU lecturer and doctoral graduate of sociology.

Study Finds Drought Recoveries Taking Longer
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology, Aug 14, 2017

A NASA study found that land ecosystems took progressively longer to get over drought in the 20th century and partial drought recovery may become the new normal in some places, possibly contributing to tree deaths and more greenhouse gas emissions.


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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