Monday, October 16, 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

Drought continues to ease in Dakotas but is still a big problem
Rapid City Journal (S.D.), Oct 05, 2017

Nearly two-thirds of North and South Dakota remained in drought, down slightly from the previous week.

Devastating Drought Continues Across Montana
KBZK-TV Bozeman 7 (Mont.), Sep 28, 2017

Drought remained across much of Montana with little change, apart from the extreme south central part of the state, which has emerged from drought.

Drought conditions continue to recede in North Dakota
WDAZ-TV 8 Grand Forks (N.D.), Sep 28, 2017
North Dakota

Rainfall eased drought conditions in eastern North Dakota, but severe drought hung on in the west.  After a droughty summer, 57 percent of rangeland and pastures in the Dakotas were rated very poor to poor.

ND drought conditions lessen dramatically with rains
The Dickinson Press (N.D.), Sep 21, 2017
North Dakota

Rainfall eased drought conditions in eastern and western North Dakota, with more rain chances over the weekend.  Year-to-date rainfall totals were more than 2 inches below average.

‘Recurring phenomenon’: Big Island experiencing another period of dry weather
Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Sep 07, 2017
Big Island

Parts of the Big Island were experiencing rainfall that was just 10 percent of normal, such as in Ka’u.  In Honokaa, which normally receives 6.13 inches in August, only 1.30 inches of rain fell.


Dry conditions take a toll on cattle farmers in the Valley
WHSV-TV (Harrisonburg, Va.), Oct 06, 2017
Northwestern Virginia

Some farmers in Rockingham County hear the grass crunch underneath their feet and wonder how many cattle they might have to sell or how much hay they might have to purchase for their cattle.

Bees are buzzing, but less than they should be
Billings Gazette (Mont.), Oct 01, 2017
Missoula, Montana

Beekeepers near Missoula noted that honey yields were 50 percent lower than last year, due to extreme drought and heavy wildfire smoke.

Definitely not Christmas in July for parched young trees
Bellingham Herald (Wash.), Sep 30, 2017
Washington, Oregon

The dry summer affected Christmas tree growers who had to irrigate and adapt to drier weather than is common for the area. A board member of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association knew of growers mostly in Oregon, but also some in Washington, who lost more than half of their new seedlings to the dry weather.

Area honey production appears to hold on despite drought
Inforum-Fargo (N.D.), Sep 25, 2017
North Dakota

Although honey production in western North Dakota looked very poor through the end of June, due to drought, late summer rains improved honey production in the latter part of summer.  Total production will still be lower than that of 2016.

Dry summer, along with depressed grain prices, are hurting some Kansas farmers as they begin the fall harvest
The Hutchinson News (Kan.), Sep 19, 2017
Central Kansas

A farmer and cattle producer in Kiowa and Edwards counties moved some cattle from his pastures early and intended to move more because there was little grass left on the land.

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.


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.

Billions of dead trees force US fire crews to shift tactics, Sep 08, 2017
Western U.S.

Eleven Western states harbor about 6.3 billion dead trees that pose a danger for firefighters battling the dozens of blazes burning in the West.  Bark beetles, drought, disease and fire have killed many of the trees.

More than 1 million acres have burned this summer; state fire fund drained
Helena Independent Record (Mont.), Sep 07, 2017

The state of Montana spent $53.7 million battling wildfires over the summer, completely emptying a state fire fund that was halved in April, due to legislative action.

Plants & Wildlife

Brown lawns are becoming common in Central New York (Syracuse, N.Y.), Sep 28, 2017
Central New York

A recent stretch of dry weather in central New York has browned lawns and led farmers to irrigate late season crops. 

Dry weather and hot temps cause leaves to fall early
New Philadelphia Times-Reporter (Ohio), Sep 27, 2017
Eastern Ohio

The absence of moisture over the past couple of months in eastern Ohio has hastened leaf drop before the leaves displayed their full range of color.

Biologists: Pheasant numbers drop due to prolonged drought
Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (S.D.), Sep 11, 2017
North Dakota

The pheasant count in North Dakota was down 61 percent, compared to 2016, according to the state’s roadside pheasant survey.  This is the lowest count in at least 20 years.  Drought limits the number of insects available for pheasant chicks to eat and limits habitat, leaving juveniles more exposed to predators.  A similar survey found that there were fewer pheasant chicks in South Dakota, too.

Trees begin changing color early due to stress from drought
KFYR-TV/West Dakota FOX (Bismarck, N.D.), Aug 30, 2017
Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck’s trees have begun to change color or drop leaves as drought stresses the trees.  The city forester urged the public to water their trees until the first freeze.

SD pheasant survey shows 45 percent drop in population from '16
Inforum-Fargo (N.D.), Aug 25, 2017
South Dakota

South Dakota’s pheasant population dropped by 45 percent, compared to 2016, according to an annual survey by the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

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.

FEMA says no to presidential declaration on drought
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Oct 09, 2017
North Dakota

North Dakota was denied a presidential major disaster declaration because it was “not appropriate” for the drought, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long.  There are federal programs and other sources for drought relief available to the state.

With no real rain for weeks, town of Orange enacts water restrictions
Culpeper Star-Exponent (Culpeper, Va.), Oct 05, 2017

A drought watch advisory was issued for the Northern Piedmont of Virginia, including Culpeper, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued the advisory because the region received 83 percent of normal precipitation between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 15, 2017.

EPD lifts Bartow water restrictions
Cartersville Daily Tribune News (Ga.), Sep 19, 2017

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division lifted water restrictions in 43 counties, thanks to above normal rainfall in recent months.

Drought loans approved for North Dakota ranchers
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Sep 13, 2017
North Dakota

North Dakota’s Industrial Commission approved a low-interest loan program to help ranchers deal with the ongoing drought.  On Sept. 13, the commission voted to allow the state-owned Bank of North Dakota to offer the loans to cover the rebuilding of breeding stock and to pay for feed to maintain herd levels.

Society & Public Health

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.

Ground beef prices at three-year low just in time for July 4
The Washington Post, Jul 03, 2017

Ground beef prices have fallen to a three-year low with a pound of hamburger averaging $3.56, down 68 cents from the 2015 high of $4.24.  Herd recovery after drought in 2011 and 2012 has finally brought prices down.

Another reason to curse Central Florida drought — fleas
Orlando Sentinel (Fla.), May 17, 2017

Flea problems arose in January and February, while fleas typically do not become problematic until March, said an Orlando veterinarian.  Fleas tend to thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity.

Tourism & Recreation

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.

Hunters warned: Some Block Management Areas closed due to fire danger
Billings Gazette (Mont.), Aug 28, 2017

Some Montana landowners closed their property to hunting, due to the drought and elevated fire danger. Six Block Management Areas in northeast Montana were indefinitely closed, with restricted access to walk-in hunting only in one area and a delayed opening of another area. The affected BMAs were in Blaine, Choteau, Hill, McCone and Phillips counties. The upland bird season opens on Sept. 1 and most archery seasons open on Sept. 2.

Trouble In Hunting Paradise: Falling elk populations mean fewer permits this fall
Yakima Herald (Wash.), Aug 23, 2017

A summer drought and harsh winter in 2015 led to substantial declines in the elk herd populations near Yakima and the Colockum herd north of Ellensburg and may affect the number of antlerless permits granted in the fall.  February surveys revealed “surprisingly low elk numbers” and the fewest calves ever observed. 

Deer populations also remained below normal after the 2015 summer drought and two subsequent hard winters and put the population in a decline expected to persist through 2018.

SD's Corn Palace says it learned a lesson as drought nearly ditches mural plans
Inforum (Fargo, N.D.), Aug 14, 2017
Mitchell, South Dakota

Despite the drought, the Corn Palace will have enough corn to redecorate the nine murals around the building after a more than an inch of rain fell weeks ago and revived the crop.  Roughly 275,000 ears of corn are needed to redecorate, especially since the murals were not redone in 2016, leaving the walls in need of a change in 2017.  The Palace director said that they may have had to make do with fewer colors or seek out corn from another farmer, but the rainfall made backup plans unnecessary.  Redecorating the murals will cost an estimated $115,152 this year.

Water Supply & Quality

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.

Recent months’ drought causing low water levels at Smith Mountain Project
WDBJ 7 (Roanoke, Va.), Sep 28, 2017
Roanoke, Virgina

Appalachian Power warned shoreline residents to be cautious, given the potential dangers of shallow water at the Smith Mountain Project, which includes Smith Mountain Lake and Leesville Lake.  Poor rainfall in the late summer months has allowed lake levels to fall to more than two feet below full pool.

Stage 1 Water Shortage Continues Upcountry
Maui Now (Kahului, Hawaii), Sep 14, 2017
Upcountry Maui

A stage 1 water shortage, which originally took effect on July 18, continued for Upcountry Maui due to reduced surface water flow and the forecast for more dry weather.

Georgia eases outdoor watering restrictions in 55 counties
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sep 07, 2017

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division eased outdoor water use restrictions in 55 counties, including those in the metro Atlanta area.


Australia cautions of downgrade ahead to drought-hit grain crops, Oct 12, 2017

Abares, the official Australian commodities bureau, is prepared to revise downward the winter grains harvest in its December report, although recent rainfall has helped crops.  Many winter crops in central west New South Wales have failed and will not be harvested.

For Algeria's struggling herders, "drought stops everything"
Reuters, Oct 11, 2017

More intense drought episodes in Algeria, as well as higher temperatures, make it more difficult for pastoralists to continue raising livestock.  Pastures dry up, requiring herders to buy feed.  Herders were also relying increasingly on well water as rainfall decreases.

France to Make Least Wine in 60 Years After Bad Weather Hits Grapes
Bloomberg, Oct 06, 2017

A spring frost, summer storms and drought were some of the weather events that hurt grape production in France, with the spring frost probably playing the largest role.  Italy’s wine regions suffered similar damage, but to a lesser degree.

Weeks left to save East Africa's starving children - World Vision
Reuters, Sep 27, 2017
East Africa

More than 800,000 East African children may die of starvation within weeks, or possibly months, according to World Vision charity, as the region endured conflict and prolonged drought.

Witch doctors sacrificing children in this drought-stricken African country
USA Today, Sep 26, 2017

With an intense drought gripping parts of East Africa, witch doctors have been offering more human sacrifices to appease ancestral spirits to bring health and wealth to those offering the sacrifice.


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.

What's killing trees during droughts? Scientists have new answers, Aug 07, 2017

During droughts, carbon starvation and hydraulic failure kill trees, found researchers from Oklahoma State University.

Sea temperature changes contributing to droughts
Science Daily , Jul 19, 2017
North America, Mediterranean

Variations in sea surface temperature influence persistent drought in North America and around the Mediterranean Sea, according to research from Exeter, Montpellier and Wageningen universities.


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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