Friday, September 30, 2016

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

Putting New England’s Drought in Perspective
UMass Amherst, Sep 19, 2016
“This drought is bad, but it’s not the worst,” said University of Massachusetts Amherst hydrologist David Boutt. “It’s probably not yet in the top five drought periods in New England historically, so we need to keep things in perspective.”
This year’s drought was more pronounced because it occurred during the growing season and came on the heels of a nearly 15- year stretch of above normal precipitation.
Drought grips parts of South, parches ground, withers crops
WSB-TV (Atlanta), Sep 22, 2016
Southeastern U.S.
Drought in the Southeast was most intense in northeastern Alabama and northwestern Georgia, where crops were affected and fire danger was high. In North Carolina, trees were dropping their leaves earlier than expected. Eastern Tennessee was dry, as was northern Mississippi.
D.C. area is a step away from drought after hot, parched stretch
The Washington Post, Sep 15, 2016
Washington D.C.
Hot, dry weather along the East Coast has created abnormally dry conditions in the southern Washington D.C. area.
Drought recovery still years away
Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.), Sep 09, 2016
The winter of 2015 was the driest in the Sierras in 30-plus years of data and was the fourth consecutive year of dry weather, said researchers with the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. As a result, California may need three more years to recover from drought.
Most of Massachusetts in 'severe' drought, or worse
Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise (Mass.), Sep 01, 2016

Drought worsened in Massachusetts, with extreme drought covering 22.67 percent of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Lemon Lovers Get Bitter Shock on California Drought
AgProfessional (Lenexa, Kan.), Sep 23, 2016
Drought has driven lemon prices up to about $50 for case of 165 lemons, up from $30 to $35 last year, and the lemons are not as juicy this year.
Losses Add Up as Drought Worsens in New York
Lancaster Farming (Ephrata, Penn.), Sep 23, 2016
Southern Finger Lakes area, New York
A corn grower cutting the crop for silage was getting half as much as he got the previous year, amounting to a 21,000-ton corn silage shortage on his farm alone. This means dairy farms across the region will be hard-pressed to find adequate feed this winter. There have been very few, if any, third cuttings of alfalfa, and second cuttings of grass hay did not happen.
Raisin growers are likely to harvest a smaller crop this year
Western Farm Press (Minneapolis, Minn.), Sep 21, 2016
California’s raisin growers expected 2016 would be a lighter year after a bountiful harvest in 2015, and found production was down 10 to 50 percent, averaging about 20 percent less. A number of issues may have factored into the low production, including adverse weather hurting bud development, replacement of raisin acreage with more profitable crops, water stress after years of drought, or insect threats.
On the bright side, sugar levels seemed to be higher, resulting in better quality raisins.
Summer weather hurt cotton farmers
WFXL-TV (Albany, Ga.), Sep 20, 2016
Southern Georgia
Hot, dry weather in southern Georgia was hard on the cotton crop, and the arrival of Hurricane Hermine brought wind and rain that tangled the plants, which will make harvest more challenging and take longer. While the harsh weather will not mean a huge dollar loss for farmers, it will take away some of the profit.
Maine wild blueberry crop bigger than expected amid drought
Associated Press, Sep 20, 2016
Maine’s wild blueberry crop turned out better than expected after a summer drought hammered New England’s agriculture. The past two years of bountiful wild blueberry crops yielding more than 100 million pounds annually has held prices low, and another year of plentiful wild blueberries will continue to keep prices low.

Business & Industry

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 (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
Missouri River
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.
California craft beer brewers balance drafts and drought
Redding Record Searchlight (Calif.), Oct 11, 2015
As California communities strive to meet their water conservation goals, those communities also ask businesses, including craft beer brewers, to slash water use. While larger breweries might have the capital to increase water use efficiency, smaller ones in many cases do not.
Losing Water, California Tries to Stay Atop Economic Wave
The New York Times, Aug 19, 2015
Continued economic growth requires building more homes, creating new jobs and drawing in more people, but it is not clear that water supplies will be able to meet demand. Some see drought as being cyclical, while other view it as the new normal, leading to conflicting perspectives on new development.


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.
In Parched California, a Farmer’s Market Is Emerging for Power
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Sep 03, 2015
California farmers were pumping more water for crop irrigation amid a fourth year of drought and were using hundreds of millions of dollars more electricity than normal to power the pumps. In the Central Valley, farmers may use groundwater to meet more than 60 percent of their irrigation needs in 2015, one-third more than a normal year, At that rate, electric bills would rise 77 percent, or $600 million, compared to a year with normal precipitation.


As Drought Worsens, Wildfire Season Continues
New England Cable News (Newton, Mass.), Sep 13, 2016
New England
The large rain deficit in New England has allowed more fires to burn and lengthened the fire season.
Winslow council temporarily bans fireworks because of drought (Augusta, Maine), Sep 12, 2016
Winslow, Maine
The Winslow town council banned the use of fireworks for the next 90 days due to the dry conditions.
Wildfire fears made real by Southern California's drought dry brush
Riverside Press-Enterprise (Calif.), Aug 30, 2016
Southern California
Critically low moisture levels in the manzanita bushes and other woody shrubs in the chaparral habitat of the foothills of Southern California have played a large role in the fire danger and intensity of wildfires searing the state this summer. The brush does not typically become this dry for another two months, but five years of drought has caused the water content in the chaparral to drop to fall levels early, said Tom Rolinski, a Riverside-based meteorologist for the U.S. Forest Service.
In dry, windy West, crews target flames in several states
Associated Press, Aug 22, 2016
Western U.S.
Many wildfires were burning in western states as dry, windy conditions made it difficult to bring the fires under control. Firefighters in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah were creating fire lines and defending property as residents faced mandatory evacuations and hoped for the best.
More than 2 dozen large wildfires burn in Western states
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Mont.), Aug 03, 2016
Western U.S.
Twenty-seven large wildfires were burning in the West as hot, dry windy weather makes the blazes difficult to control. States with large wildfires included California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Plants & Wildlife

BLM hauls water to wild horses in eastern Nevada
Elko Daily Free Press (Nev.), Sep 13, 2016
Eastern Nevada
The Bureau of Land Management Ely District began transporting water to wild horses in the Big Sand Spring Valley area of the Pancake Herd Management Area in early September, to Martilletti Spring on Aug. 30, and to Moody Spring on Sept. 8 as drought impeded spring flows.
Dry weather could shorten New England's fall foliage season
Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Sep 05, 2016
New England’s trees could have duller color or a shortened span of colorful leaves, but hotels were booked full ahead of the fall season, so business people were not concerned. Some eastern Massachusetts trees were unable to grow new leaves after gypsy moth caterpillars chewed leaves on 350,000 acres of trees.
It's still summer, so why are 'autumn' leaves already falling?
KOMO (Seattle, Wash.), Sep 01, 2016
Seattle, Washington
Seattle trees were turning color and losing leaves earlier than normal despite a wet autumn and winter. Summer 2015 was particularly hot, dry and stressful for Seattle’s trees.
Drought conditions in Connecticut raise concerns of tree damage to power lines
New Haven Register (Conn.), Aug 29, 2016
Eversource Energy has its crews out looking for drought-damaged trees near the company’s distribution and transmission lines. Weakened trees can easily drop a branch or topple over during bad weather, disrupting power. Arborists also accompanied helicopter crews during the annual summer review of the transmission network.
Drought means bolder bears, stressed fish
The Recorder (Greenfield, Mass.), Aug 21, 2016
New England
New England wildlife was adapting to the hot, dry summer, which was leading people to make a few changes, too. Stream levels were below normal, allowing the water to warm more than usual, increasing stress for fish because warmer water carries less oxygen. In Maine and New Hampshire, anglers were urged to fish earlier or later in the day to avoid stressing fish further.
Mosquito populations were larger than normal, which may seem counter intuitive during a drought. Low rivers and ponds offer more shallow areas that could aid mosquito reproduction.
New England bears, snakes and ants were venturing further to find food and water and were turning up in unexpected places. New Hampshire bears have been seen foraging at campgrounds and in neighborhood trash cans because berry bushes produced fewer berries during drought.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Drought Advisory Continues For Connecticut
Hartford Courant (Conn.), Sep 14, 2016
The drought advisory for Connecticut remained in effect, as determined by the state Interagency Drought Workgroup. All water customers were urged to voluntarily limit their water use by 10 percent.
Drought Watch Declared for Four More Pennsylvania Counties
Lancaster Farming (Ephrata, Pa.), Sep 09, 2016
The Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch declaration for four additional Pennsylvania counties — Chester, Cumberland, Delaware and Philadelphia — due to low stream flows, declining groundwater levels and lack of precipitation.
Georgia EPD Declares Level 1 Drought Response, Encourages Water Conservation
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Sep 09, 2016
Northern Georgia
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared 53 counties in the northwestern part of the state to be in a level 1 drought response. Local water providers must begin a public information campaign to inform citizens about drought and conservation.
Task force cites new drought impacts
Worcester Business Journal (Mass.), Sep 09, 2016
The Worcester Department of Public Works and Parks announced a "Stage 3 Drought Emergency" for the city and implemented additional water use restrictions to assure the long term availability of water to meet the critical health, safety and economic needs. The reservoir providing water for Worcester, Holden and other communities was at 55.1 percent of capacity.
The state’s Drought Management Task Force recommended moving the southeastern part of the state from “watch” to “warning,” and shift Cape Cod and the islands from “advisory” to “watch.”
Drought Task Force assesses conditions
WCSH 6 (Portland, Maine), Sep 08, 2016
The Maine Drought Task Force saw severe drought conditions expanding north as far as Wiscasset. Individuals and representatives of agencies shared observations of drought impacts across the state.

Society & Public Health

High school opens showers for drought victims
Manchester Union Leader (N.H.), Sep 19, 2016
Kingston, New Hampshire
The Kingston High School began allowing people from Fremont, Kingston and Newton to use showers at the school, which was open from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Plaistow Community YMCA on Route 125 has also begun offering use of its showers for people dealing with dry wells.
Despite the drought, some can't say no to green lawns
New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester), Sep 03, 2016
New Hampshire
Pennichuck Corporation, a water provider in southern and central New Hampshire, reported record water use in June and July as outdoor irrigation increased demand. There were 115 community water systems and three towns with water restrictions and bans as drought persisted. In addition to shallow wells having problems, deep wells were in trouble too.
Upside to drought: Fewer deer ticks and fewer cases of Lyme disease
Portland Press Herald (Maine), Aug 19, 2016
Drought in the Northeast has reduced the number of deer ticks, the insects that transmit Lyme disease. The number of Lyme disease cases was lower than the five-year average for the first six months of the year, said the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Two other tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, have climbed to record highs in 2016, according to the Maine CDC. It was unclear why the rates of those diseases were high while the population of deer ticks was low.
Task force says parts of Maine experiencing drought
Bangor Daily News (Maine), Aug 04, 2016
Groundwater and surface water levels were well-below normal for this time of year, particularly in the southern half of Maine.
13 Montana Counties Under Drought Alert
Flathead Beacon (Mont.), Jul 19, 2016
Nine counties in southern and northwestern Montana were added to the list of counties under drought alerts. The most recent additions were Carter, Carbon, Yellowstone, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Powell, Ravalli, Missoula and Sanders. Drought alerts took effect for Glacier, Pondera, Teton and northern Lewis and Clark counties in June.

Tourism & Recreation

Farmington River and tributaries closed to fishing due to drought, heat
The Day (New London, Conn.), Aug 19, 2016
Parts of the West Branch Farmington River and the Farmington River were closed to fishing because drought, heat, low flows and warm water temperatures have stressed the fish. Some fish kills have already occurred, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Maine wildlife agency raises concerns as drought stresses trout, salmon
Portland Press Herald (Maine), Aug 12, 2016
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recommended that fishermen try to reduce stress on fish by fishing earlier or later in the day when temperatures are lower, and catch and release fish quickly by using barbless hooks to expedite the release.
GFP Commission votes to release 50 more elk hunting licenses due to drought
Capital Journal (Pierre, S.D.), Aug 07, 2016
South Dakota
South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department will offer an additional 50 cow elk hunting licenses this year as part of a drought contingency program in the state’s elk management plan. Five additional licenses will be issued for each of 10 northern Black Hills antlerless elk hunting units where the range conditions were deteriorating rapidly.
As Lake Powell recedes, Glen Canyon reveals its secrets
Durango Herald (Colo.), Apr 13, 2016
Lake Powell in southern Utah
Lake Powell was at 104 feet below full pool, which allows hikers to access areas not seen since before the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed in the 1950s.
Upper Big Falls in San Bernardino National Forest closed as rescues more than triple
Los Angeles Times, Oct 27, 2015
A seven-acre area around Upper Big Falls in the San Bernardino National Forest was closed by the park on Oct. 8 because too many climbers have chosen to scale the face of the falls and needed to be rescued.

Water Supply & Quality

Officials to tour Utah's drought-stricken Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, Utah), Sep 22, 2016
Great Salt Lake, Utah
A few dozen Utah lawmakers were visiting Great Salt Lake to observe how years of drought and heat have sapped the lake, nearly emptying a marina on the southern shore and allowing pink bacteria to thrive in its salty waters. The lake was nearing record low levels.
In 2015, legislators approved an expense of $1.5 million to dredge the lake, adding an additional 6 to 8 feet and creating a passable channel for boats. The project should commence in early 2017.
Private wells from Vermont to Connecticut come up empty amid drought
New Haven Register (Conn.), Sep 22, 2016
Northeastern U.S.
Some private well owners, particularly those with shallow or hand-dug wells, in the Northeast no longer have running water as drought dries up water supplies. Roughly 2.3 million people, or 20 percent of New England’s population, get water from private wells, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Corps slows flow from lakes as drought increases but Hartwell still likely to go down
Greenville Online (S.C.), Sep 21, 2016
Georgia/South Carolina border
Outflow from Lake Thurmond was reduced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when the level of the lake fell below 324 feet above sea level, triggering Drought Level 2 on the morning of Sept. 19. Flow through Lake Thurmond Dam will be lowered from 4,200 cubic feet per second to 4,000 cubic feet per second by Sept. 24, said Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell. The slow reduction in flow allows the Southeastern Power Administration time to arrange for alternative sources of electrical power generation.
The Broad River was flowing at about 16 percent of average for this time of year, according to the Corps. If the river’s flow falls below 10 percent, the Corps will further reduce outflow from Lake Thurmond.
Toxic algae troubles many California lakes and waterways
East Bay Times (San Jose, Calif.), Sep 17, 2016
More than 40 California lakes and waterways were infected with cyanobacteria, surprising people and water agencies with its prevalence, and was twice the number of 22 cyanobacteria-affected water bodies in 2015. State officials were more aware of the problem, as were lake operators, and more signs were being posted this year to warn the public of the danger to themselves and pets.
Communities scramble to find emergency water sources
Boston Globe (Mass.), Sep 15, 2016
Despite the higher cost, an increasing number of Massachusetts communities were requesting emergency supplies from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Worcester and Ashland activated emergency connections, while other towns were relying more heavily upon the MWRA, whose primary reservoir is the Quabbin. The Quabbin was at 84 percent of its 412-billion-gallon capacity, its lowest point in more than a decade.


Conab slashes Brazilian robusta hopes, after drought damage (Hereford, U.K.), Sep 21, 2016
Drought and fewer acres planted to coffee led Conab, the Brazilian government crop supply agency to downgrade its Robusta coffee forecast to 8.35 million bags, down 1 million bags from a previous estimate.
Ugandan wildlife dying in national park from drought
The Washington Post, Sep 21, 2016
Zebras and antelopes were some of the animals that died of hunger and thirst in Uganda’s Lake Mburo National Park. Drought has also stressed animals in other national parks in the country, but no deaths were reported.
Amazon forest fire threatens natives, wildlife in Peru
Yahoo! Finance, Sep 21, 2016
Drought parched some of the Amazon rainforest in Peru, allowing an agricultural burn to turn into a massive wildfire burning out of control since Sept. 10, claiming more than 47,000 acres. It continued to burn in an area of dense rainforest and tropical crops, such as coffee, cocoa and coca, used to make cocaine.
'Serious concern' in Somalia as 5 million go hungry, U.N. says
Reuters, Sep 20, 2016
Five million Somalis do not have enough food to eat, representing more than 40 percent of the population, due to poor rains, said the United Nations. The number has increased by 300,000 since February. Conflict, flood risk and access constraints were also fueling the hunger.
South African Park Kills 350 Hippos, Buffalos Amid Drought
The New York Times, Sep 14, 2016
South Africa
Rangers in Kruger National Park, the largest wildlife park in South Africa, were killing about 350 hippos and buffaloes to relieve pressure on the vegetation as drought continued. A parks service spokesman said that the animals were expected to die anyway and the animal populations were at their highest levels. The animals’ meat will be given to poor communities on the park’s perimeter.


A&M researcher brings the dream to the Texas cotton patch
The Eagle (Bryan-College Station, Texas), Aug 29, 2016

An endophyte microbial coating of the planting seed can, under some conditions, boost the cotton yield by up to 10 percent, discovered researcher Greg Sword, an entomologist with Texas A&M. Nothing else is needed to achieve the production increase—not specialized farming equipment, no GMO technology, etc. Some of the endophytes can reduce pest pressure on cotton, as well as confer water stress resistance.
Rainfall following drought linked to historic nitrate levels in Midwest streams in 2013, Jun 07, 2016

Periods of drought followed by rainfall caused nitrate levels to spike in some Midwest streams during a 2013 study, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report published in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Plants remember stress to help protect themselves, Jun 01, 2016

Research from the University of Warwick in the U.K. revealed that plants have evolved ways to remember previous exposures to stress, such as high salinity conditions, which can help subsequent progenies withstand the same stress in future.
Researchers identify critical factors that determine drought vulnerability of wheat, maize
Science Daily (Rockville, Md.), May 26, 2016

Researchers from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis identified critical information about the environmental variables and agronomic factors that determine the vulnerability of maize and wheat production to drought.
US absorbed carbon dioxide despite drought
Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle Of Man, United Kingdom), Apr 25, 2016
The 2012 drought did not turn the U.S. into a net carbon source, as occurred during Europe’s hot summer in 2003, but the country continued to be a carbon sink. As it turns out, the warm spring prompted vegetation to begin growing earlier, thus absorbing more carbon.


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.
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.
Drought Headlines Archive

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