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
Crucial Time for Massachusetts To Escape Drought
New England Public Radio (Springfield, Mass.), Apr 17, 2017
Massachusetts still needs more rain to recharge groundwater supplies before the growing season gets fully underway and begins drawing down the aquifer again.
Northern California gets its wettest winter in nearly a century
Los Angeles Times, Apr 13, 2017
Northern Sierra Nevada in California
The northern Sierra Nevada set a new snowfall record of 89.7 inches of precipitation spanning a region of eight stations, breaking the previous record of 88.5 inches that fell during the 1982-83 winter season. The measurement began with the start of the water year on Oct. 1 and leaves time for additional snow to push the record even higher before the water year ends.
Northern Sierra is now only 5 inches from wettest water year on record
San Francisco Chronicle, Apr 05, 2017
California's Sierra Nevada
The northern Sierra Nevada is within 5 snowy inches of having the wettest year on record and is currently at 83.5 inches. Another storm or two delivering a total of 5 inches before September 30 would make the 2016-17 winter wetter than the 1982-83 winter.
Survey Says New York Growers Lost More than 70% of Crop Last Year
Growing Produce (Willoughby, Ohio), Apr 18, 2017
Of the 200+ New York farmers surveyed about 2016 crop losses, more than 70 percent reported losses of unirrigated, rain-fed field crops and pasture acreage ranging from 30 to 90 percent. Even farmers with irrigation reported losses of up to 35 percent.
Rain saves some farmers from losing all their crops
WAFB Channel 9 (Baton Rouge, La.), Apr 03, 2017
Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas
Crop losses have exceeded 50 percent for some farmers in the ArkLaTex region, due to little rainfall in past weeks. Very recent rainfall, however, relieved the dryness and revived crops.
SD ranchers stretch feed to finish out winter
The Dickinson Press (S.D.), Feb 27, 2017
Ranchers in western and north central South Dakota were short on hay and looking for a way to stretch remaining supplies. For some producers in those regions of South Dakota, hay production was poor last year.
Drought Impacting Cattlemen in Southeast and Plains
Drovers Cattle Network, Feb 10, 2017
Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee
Livestock producers in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee all lament the dry weather and pasture conditions are not what they could be. A producer from Stillwater, Okla. noted that the dryness of the past two months might leave too little moisture for spring planting. Producers in Mississippi do not have enough forage and, in some cases, water, and have had to wean calves early or sell out for lack of options. Some Tennessee producers have sold calves earlier than normal or culled more heavily in the fall to cope with the poor fall grazing and hay production.
Business & Industry
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
The owner of a well-drilling business in Amherst said they had a backlog of three to four weeks, with the phone ringing steadily in the last two weeks and most calls coming from Hillsborough and Rockingham counties. A well driller based in Hudson reported getting quite a few calls from the Kingston area. An Epping well driller was getting calls from Barrington, Brentwood, Durham, Epping, Madbury and Nottingham.
Warm, dry summer a blessing and curse for Maine golf industry
Bangor Daily News (Maine), Aug 29, 2016
Maine golf courses have benefited from the hot, dry summer because they have had sunny weather and almost no rain days. More irrigation than usual was needed to keep grass green, but golfers appreciate that dry fairways allow the balls to roll further. Overall, golf course operators seemed to like the dry summer and were happy about all of the golfers playing.
Summer drought taking toll on lawn care companies
RochesterFirst.com (New York), Aug 01, 2016
Rochester, New York
A Rochester lawn care business owner said he’s losing $2,500 to $3,000 weekly because grass was dormant and did not need to be mowed.
Barge traffic makes a resurgence on the Missouri River
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 30, 2016
Drought was among a number of factors leading shippers to abandon the Missouri River as a transportation corridor as public ports from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Louis disappeared during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Increasingly, grain, scrap metal, fertilizer and other commodities were again being moved by barge.
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
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.
State warns residents: Fire season likely will get worse
Daytona Times (Fla.), Apr 20, 2017
In Florida, there were 106 wildfires charring 124,000 acres as of April 19, as the fire season got off to a brisk start. The Florida fire season has not yet peaked, according to Jim Karels, director of the Florida Forest Service, who noted that the state was seeing an “active early fire season.” The fire season tends to peak in April, May and June, with the worst often occurring in May and June.
Florida brush fires, wildfires lead to emergency declaration
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel & SouthFlorida.com, Apr 11, 2017
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida on April 11 due to the multitude of wildfires burning in the parched state. Flames have already scorched 250 percent more land in the first three months of 2017 than during the same time in 2016. More than 100 active wildfires have consumed more than 20,000 acres across Florida, according to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
U.S. sees furious start to the wildfire season
USA Today, Mar 20, 2017
More than 2 million acres have burned in the U.S. since the start of 2017, with many of those wildfires consuming record numbers of acres in Oklahoma and Kansas. Many of the fires occurred in drought-affected parts of the U.S.
Northwest Oklahoma wildfires reported 80 percent contained
NewsOK (Oklahoma City), Mar 15, 2017
Since March 6, wildfires driven by strong winds burned more than 782,000 acres in Oklahoma. In the northwest, fires that killed thousands of head of livestock and destroyed at least eight homes were 80 percent contained, according to the Oklahoma Forestry Services. The Starbuck fire, which crossed the state line into Kansas, consumed 34 homes and more than 100 outbuildings. Nineteen Oklahoma counties had bans on outdoor burning.
Q&A: A look at questions about current US wildfires
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Mar 08, 2017
Hundreds of square miles burned and six lives were lost in the Southern Plains as gusty winds drove flames across the dry landscape. In southern Kansas, an estimated 861 square miles burned in Clark and Comanche counties, setting a new record for the largest single fire in Kansas’ recorded history.
Since March 4, grass fires consumed more than 1,000 square miles and at least 70 structures in 23 Kansas counties. Three blazes in the Texas Panhandle charred nearly 750 square miles, while more than 540 square miles burned in Oklahoma. Wildfire activity in northeastern Colorado also blackened dozens of square miles.
Plants & Wildlife
The trees that make Southern California shady and green are dying. Fast.
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2017
Southern California is undergoing a massive tree die-off as the stress of drought, water restrictions, higher salinity levels in recycled water, wind and new pests take a terrible toll on the region’s trees, particularly those better suited to climates other than California’s.
DNR: Dry weather to blame for more alligator sightings
WALB-TV (Albany, Ga.), Apr 17, 2017
Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources has warned that the warm, dry weather has alligators on the move seeking water sources in the southwestern part of the state. Drivers are cautioned to be on the lookout for the creatures at night when they are harder to see. An estimated 250,000 alligators live in Georgia.
Drought Was Tough on Farmers, But Good for Moose
Maine Public (Bangor, Maine), Apr 11, 2017
The 2016 drought limited the tick population in New Hampshire, which made the winter easier for moose calves because there were fewer ticks. Just one calf died from winter ticks, compared to nearly 75 percent of the tracked calves during the previous winter.
Drought, then winter conditions could reduce number of buck deer hunting permits in Utah
The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Mar 22, 2017
Some parts of Utah have fewer young bucks after the harsh 2014-15 winter, drought in 2016 and another difficult winter. The Division of Wildlife Resources recommended that the Utah Wildlife Board issue fewer buck deer hunting permits to allow the population to recover. The wildlife board will decide permit numbers for big game hunts on April 27.
Experts worried about pine beetle outbreak in Alabama
Times Daily (Florence, Ala.), Mar 14, 2017
Alabama forests were experiencing more Southern pine beetle activity than normal, although such outbreaks do not typically occur until late spring or early summer. Many of the state’s trees were dead or dying after intense drought during the 2016 summer, leaving trees very stressed and vulnerable to insect attack.
Apart from drought, the number of Southern pine beetle outbreaks has been climbing steadily for the past four years, but with drought stress and damage, factors were converging to create immense beetle outbreaks.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
Drought watches, warnings lifted for most N.J. counties
New Jersey Herald (Newton), Apr 13, 2017
Most of the drought watches and warnings were lifted for New Jersey counties as rain and snow alleviated drought and refilled water supplies. Hunterdon and Somerset counties remained in a drought watch. Round Valley reservoir and Spruce Run reservoir were at 72 and 69 percent of capacity, respectively, and need more precipitation to refill.
Governor Brown Lifts Drought Emergency, Retains Prohibition on Wasteful Practices
Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. (Calif.), Apr 07, 2017
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. lifted the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices. Emergency drinking water projects continue in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties, due to diminished groundwater supplies.
Corps of Engineers launching new drought operations for ACF Basin
Gwinnett Daily Post (Ga.), Apr 06, 2017
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began drought operations in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin because Lake Lanier was considerably below full pool. The change in operation will curb releases from 12,100 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cfs to the Apalachicola River. Although Lake Lanier was low, two other reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River—West Point and Walter F. George—were above normal pool.
DEQ issues drought watch advisory
WCAV-TV Charlottesville Newsplex (Va.), Mar 22, 2017
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a drought watch advisory for localities and public water suppliers in Greene, Louisa, Madison and Orange counties and other areas. The advisory was meant to alert the public that drought conditions were developing and to prepare for such an event. Voluntary water conservation was encouraged.
Improvement in drought conditions continues
WWLP-TV (Springfield, Mass.), Mar 10, 2017
Massachusetts has seen improvements in its drought status, leading the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs to adjust the drought status for Berkshire County from drought watch to advisory. Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties went from a drought warning to a watch.
Society & Public Health
Drought linked with human health risks in US analysis
MedicalXpress, Apr 04, 2017
Severe drought can increase the risk of heart and lung illnesses and death for older people. Researchers reviewed health and drought data from 618 counties in the western U.S. between 2000 and 2013.
NASA Data Show California’s San Joaquin Valley Still Sinking
YubaNet.com (Nevada City, Calif.), Feb 28, 2017
San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, California
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory identified two major bowls of subsidence in California related to additional groundwater pumping associated with recent years of drought. They were located near Chowchilla, south of Merced, and Corcoran, north of Bakersfield, and continued to sink nearly 2 feet per year between May 2015 and Sept. 2016. Other parts of the San Joaquin Valley were sinking, as well, such as near Tranquility, where sinking increased in the past year and occurred at a rate of up to 20 inches per year.
Some subsidence occurred in the Sacramento Valley near Davis and Arbuckle. A new patch of subsidence was discovered in Sierra Valley, north of Lake Tahoe.
Drought May Beckon Bigger West Nile Outbreaks
Health Day (Norwalk, Conn.), Feb 08, 2017
A review of 15 years’ worth of data on West Nile virus infections found that epidemics were larger during drought years, according to research from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Drought was the dominant weather variable correlated with the size of the West Nile virus epidemics,” stated study author Sara Paull, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz. What was unclear was how drought might be worsening the epidemics.
NASA study says Valley still sinking
KFRE & KMPH-TV Fox 26 & CW 59 (Fresno, Calif.), Feb 08, 2017
San Joaquin Valley, California
New NASA radar satellite maps prepared for the California Department of Water Resources indicate that land in the San Joaquin Valley continued to sink rapidly, endangering state and federal aqueducts and flood control structures.
“The rates of San Joaquin Valley subsidence documented since 2014 by NASA are troubling and unsustainable,” stated DWR Director William Croyle. “Subsidence has long plagued certain regions of California. But the current rates jeopardize infrastructure serving millions of people. Groundwater pumping now puts at risk the very system that brings water to the San Joaquin Valley. The situation is untenable.”
With no assistance in sight, engineer requesting bids for sealing machine
TimesDaily.com (Florence, Ala.), Jan 24, 2017
Colbert County, Alabama
As drought and damage to Colbert County roads continued, the county engineer was getting estimates for a crack sealing machine to repair the cracked roads. The cracking was occurring because clay soil beneath the pavement was shrinking and sifting as it dried. Some of the gaping cracks spanned an inch in width and allowed water to seep into the road’s subgrade. Nearby counties were also experiencing similar problems with road damage.
Recent rainfall has not eased the extent of damage to the roads, and instead, more template deformation was occurring, resulting in more dips in roadways.
Tourism & Recreation
You can now use the outdoor showers at state beaches again
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2017
The California Department of Parks and Recreation ended its two-year ban on outdoor shower use at 38 state beaches. Drought and the need for water conservation prompted the ban, which was not popular with beach goers.
Salmon fishing closed this year on southern Oregon Coast
The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.), Apr 16, 2017
Southern Oregon Coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon. The fish have faced significant challenges with drought and other factors in recent years.
Salmon fishing shut down for southern Oregon coast
Outdoor News (Plymouth, Minn.), Apr 14, 2017
Southern Oregon coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon, given the challenges the fish have faced with drought and other factors in recent years.
Corps urges caution on Arkansas reservoir lakes
ArkansasOnline.com (Little Rock, Ark.), Feb 05, 2017
Lakes in northern and western Arkansas were lower than normal, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to warn recreationists to be careful of shallow waters and objects nearer the water’s surface. Beaver, Bull Shoals, Greers Ferry, Norfork and Table Rock lakes were 5 to 10 feet lower than normal.
Several boat ramps at The Rez closing due to drought conditions
WJTV-TV CBS 12 (Jackson, Miss.), Nov 10, 2016
Barnett Reservoir, Jackson, Mississippi
Several boat ramps at Barnett Reservoir were closed as drought lowered the water level. Some of the ramp closures included Fannin Landing in Rankin County, Brown’s Landing in Madison County and five subdivision ramps.
Water Supply & Quality
Water shortage warning for 8M from Orlando to the Keys
Palm Beach Post (Fla.), Apr 16, 2017
A water shortage warning was issued by the South Florida Water Management District as the precipitation deficit continued to climb. Since Nov. 1, the district’s 16 counties were 6.75 inches below normal, and the level of Lake Okeechobee dipped to 12.04 feet. The district also prohibited fires on its lands and was preparing to close navigation locks on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee.
Westside water supply upped to 100 percent
Hanford Sentinel (Calif.), Apr 11, 2017
South of Delta, California
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that South of Delta water contractors would receive a 100 percent allocation from the Central Valley Project. Farmers were previously told that they would receive just 65 percent of a full allotment, which angered and disappointed them greatly. The news of getting a full allotment came too late for farmers to change their crop plans for this year, however.
No help in sight as Lehigh wells running dry
NBC2 WBBH-TV (Fort Myers, Fla.), Apr 05, 2017
Well drillers in Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral were struggling to keep up with demand for service as drought lowered the water table. Some private wells have suddenly gone dry, leaving homeowners in the lurch. Those with private wells were urged to conserve water until the drought ends.
Drought-hit Somalia moves closer to famine, says aid group
The Washington Post, Apr 20, 2017
Life-threatening child malnutrition rates were climbing to alarming levels in Somalia, according to Save the Children, an international aid group. The country is headed toward famine with three-fourths of livestock dead and water sources depleted in many communities.
Diarrhoea kills 28 in Somaliland in 10 days: Red Cross
Medical Xpress, Apr 12, 2017
Acute diarrhea took the lives of 28 people in Somaliland.
"This outbreak is frightening, as the people of Somaliland are already weakened by the drought and by lack of food," said Abdirasaq Ali Duran, a Somali Red Crescent Society official. "Drought doesn't just cause thirst, hunger and death—it causes diseases like acute diarrhoea, because people are so desperate for water that they'll drink from heavily contaminated streams or puddles."
Starving to death
The Washington Post, Apr 11, 2017
South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen
Twenty million people in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen face starvation, and these dire situations partly stem from ongoing conflict.
Under the dead sea, warnings of dire drought
Phys.org, Mar 22, 2017
Deposits from nearly 1,000 feet below the Dead Sea indicated that the Middle East has endured episodes where precipitation dropped to one-fifth of modern day levels.
NAU study finds drought-quenching bacteria protect plants from climate stress
Northern Arizona University News (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Mar 20, 2017
Plants that received growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), a diverse group of organisms known for their root and rhizosphere colonizing ability, experienced vegetable and grain yield increases of 20 to 45 percent. Such benefits are even more pronounced during drought conditions.
Anthropogenic warming impacts on California snowpack during drought
American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, Mar 15, 2017
Anthropogenic warming reduced average snowpack levels by 25 percent between 2011 and 2015, found researchers from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California.
Drought Headlines Archive
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.
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.