We select interesting and representative drought stories from all over the U.S. and around the world. We group them into the same categories that the Drought Impact Reporter uses, as well as a few others. Subscribe to Drought Headlines
Drought Headlines Archive
Drought conditions persist in most of Colorado
The Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colo.), Dec 03, 2013
Reservoir storage in Colorado was 83 percent of average, better than this time last year when storage was 66 percent of average. Snowpack depths were above average, but the majority of the state’s snow usually comes in March and April.
Calif. drought worst since 2007
Dairy Herd Network (Lenexa, Kansas), Nov 21, 2013
While the Midwestern flash drought continues to ease, drought intensity increased in the western U.S., Kansas and Texas. Ninety-six percent of California is in moderate or worse drought. Abnormal dryness continued to expand along the East Coast.
'Flash drought' finally eases in the Corn Belt
Drovers CattleNetwork (Lenexa, Kansas), Nov 14, 2013
The percentage of the contiguous U.S. in drought improved slightly to 31.8 percent, down nearly half of a percentage point from last week. While much of the western U.S. remains in drought, stretches of abnormal dryness have developed along the East Coast and in the Southeast.
California ranchers weigh options as dry spell lingers
Central Valley Business Times (Stockton, California), Dec 04, 2013
Central Valley, California
Fall rains have not materialized to get California Central Valley pastures growing and producing grass for livestock. Ranchers have opted for selling some cattle and buying a little feed to get through the winter.
Bankruptcy Looms for Farmers as Drought Restrictions Continue
Q 101.9 KQXT-FM (San Antonio, Texas), Nov 20, 2013
Lower Colorado River in Texas
Many rice farmers in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties have held on, hoping for irrigation water so they could resume growing rice, but an emergency plan proposed by the Lower Colorado River Authority may prevent rice farmers from receiving irrigation water for a third consecutive year.
Texas rice farmers may go 3rd year without water
Houston Chronicle (Texas), Nov 19, 2013
Lower Colorado River in Texas
The Lower Colorado River Authority board approved a plan that would allow them to keep 1.1 million acre-feet of water in the Highland Lakes before sharing water with downstream users. Previously, Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis had to contain at least 850,000 acre-feet, or 42 percent of capacity, before water would be released, but persistent drought made the board realize that the lakes needed additional time to recover from drought. The Texas Board of Environmental Quality must approve the plan before it takes effect.
Since lakes Buchanan and Travis were at 36 percent of capacity, it seems unlikely the lakes will fill enough to allow rice farmers to receive irrigation water in 2014 for the third consecutive year of not receiving water. The lack of irrigation water may be the death knell for many rice farmers who were desperately hoping for irrigation water this year. Matagorda Bay also relies on the Highland Lakes for fresh water inflows to reduce the bay’s salinity for oyster beds and fisheries.
Drought hurts sugar cane harvest
Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas), Nov 18, 2013
Rio Grande Valley of Texas
Drought hampered the sugar cane crop in south Texas, where farmers were hesitant to plant for lack of irrigation water. Mill experts anticipate the sugar cane crop to be roughly 125,000 tons, or about 17 percent lower than the average harvest of 150,000 tons, for a loss of about $10.5 million. The president and CEO of RGV Sugar Growers said that it is hard to break even with depressed sugar prices.
Insurer expects record crop losses
The Pueblo Chieftain (Colorado), Nov 13, 2013
A crop insurer in Ault, Colorado anticipates up to $9 million in claims from northern Colorado farmers in 2013, due to early drought, hailstorms and late-summer flooding. The insurer paid out nearly $6 million in indemnity payments in 2012, which was about three times as much as the insurer had paid previously.
Business & Industry
Canton Businesses on the Brink Months After Oklahoma City Water Withdrawal
StateImpact Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.), Nov 07, 2013
Oklahoma City drew water from Canton Lake in January 2013, depleting the lake and causing hardships for Canton. Fewer visitors came to the lake for recreation because the lake was very low, leading to reduced revenue for many businesses. The local grocery store saw a 50 percent reduction in business, while a café near the dam closed for lack of customers.
Remaining business owners wonder how long it might take Canton to recover from the water release that drained Canton Lake and hope that they can hang on until then.
ADM's 3rd-Quarter Profit Rises on Accounting Credit -- Update
NASDAQ.com (New York, N.Y.), Oct 29, 2013
Limited supplies of soybeans and corn after the Midwestern drought in 2012 cut into Archer Daniels Midland’s revenue and core earnings in the third quarter. Oilseed processing was down 3.6 percent and corn volume slipped 7.8 percent.
The company’s agricultural-services profit dropped $152 million compared to the third quarter of 2012, due to fewer exports.
Drought affecting Texas water utilities' revenues
FierceEnergy (Washington, D.C.), Oct 29, 2013
Fitch downgraded Fort Worth’s water and sewer bonds in April 2013, the first time a reduction was directly related to drought. Garland and the San Patricio Municipal Water District’s water and sewer revenue bonds were on negative outlook.
Line of ships on Puget Sound hints at rebound
The Daily Astorian (Oregon), Oct 16, 2013
Seattle and Tacoma, Washington
Cargo ships were lining up at Seattle and Tacoma, Washington to load up on grain to take back to Japan and China. These ports have not seen cargo ships approach to load up with Midwestern grain since summer 2012.
Grain exports through Seattle amounted to just 3.1 million tons in 2012, down from 5 million tons in 2011. The trend was similar in Tacoma where exports in 2012 were 4.8 million tons, compared to nearly 6 million tons in 2011.
Cargill to close Lockney feedlot due to drought
MyPlainview.com (Texas), Oct 15, 2013
Cargill officials announced the closing of the cattle feed yard in Lockney, Texas during the summer of 2014, due to the small cattle population in the region, years of drought and less harvested grain in the area for cattle feed.
The director of communications for Cargill stated that the regional drought that began in 2011 increased the cost of feeding cattle from $2 per day per animal to $8 per day. Pastures and water sources have also dried up in recent years, leading cattle producers to sell some or all of their cattle until the national cattle population hit a low not seen since 1952. The Lockney feed yard was established in 1985, employs 45 people and has a capacity of 6,200 cattle.
Cargill idled a meat processing plant in nearby Plainview, Texas in January 2013.
Colorado River Hydropower Faces a Dry Future
IEEE Spectrum (New York, New York), Sep 19, 2013
Drought has lessened the flow through the Colorado River Basin, limiting hydropower generation at dams in the Southwest. At Hoover Dam, five new wide-head turbines are being installed to keep the power plant functioning as water levels decline in Lake Mead. Full capacity power production at Hoover Dam is 2,074 megawatts, but low water levels diminished production to 1,735 MW in August for a decline of just over 8 percent. Power production at Glen Canyon Dam in 2014 is expected to be down by 8 percent.
With the Colorado River providing less water, resulting in reduced hydropower production, the Western Area Power Administration will shell out an estimated $10 million to purchase power supplies in 2014.
Gavins Point Dam releases again set lower
Omaha.com (Nebraska), Sep 08, 2013
Upper Missouri River
Water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River will be at a minimum, due to ongoing drought in the northern Great Plains. From December through February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release an average of nearly 12,000 cubic feet per second. Winter releases are usually about 17,000 cfs or higher.
Hydropower production at the six mainstem power plants on the upper Missouri River has been low in 2013. Normal power production is 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, but is projected to be just 7.6 billion kilowatt hours this year.
Low water season draws concerns for summer energy
KTVB.COM (Boise, Idaho), Jun 18, 2013
Officials with Idaho Power are reducing flows in the Snake River to 65,000 cubic feet per second below Hells Canyon Dam to have sufficient water on hand to generate power during the summer when the power demand is highest. Flows on the Snake River are nearing historic lows, forcing some in the Treasure Valley near Boise, Idaho to go without irrigation water, while others may be denied water in the near future.
Corps: Drought Still Issue
Yankton Press & Dakotan (South Dakota), Jun 11, 2013
Upper Missouri River Basin
The six mainstem power plants on the upper Missouri River produced 608 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in May, down from typical May production of 687 kWh as lingering drought reduced runoff, despite abundant rainfall up to three times the historical averages in some parts of the Missouri River basin. Through the rest of 2013, the power plants are expected to produce 7.6 billion kWh of electricity, which is substantially lower than the average annual production of 10 billion kWh.
Summer heat may lead to power problems in California
Central Valley Business Times (Stockton, California), Jun 06, 2013
California’s reservoirs may not hold enough water to carry the region comfortably through the summer season when demand for electricity is high.
Cal Fire extends fire season staffing in San Mateo County amid low rainfall
San Francisco Examiner (Calif.), Nov 19, 2013
San Mateo County, California
Cal Fire officials have kept fire season staffing in San Mateo County through Nov. 25, due to ongoing dangerous fire conditions. The cost of maintaining readiness to fight fires longer than originally planned is $126,000.
The San Mateo-Santa Cruz Cal Fire unit has responded to 344 fires that charred 152 acres in 2013, which was considerably higher than fire statistics from 2012 when 296 blazes burned about 33 acres. So far, 2013 has been one of the driest years on record in California.
Firefighters react to fast starting dry season
WPTV TV/NewsChannel 5 (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Nov 18, 2013
Treasure Coast, Florida
The drier than normal weather led St. Lucie County officials to set up a brush fire task force. Whereas fire fighters usually take one brush truck to respond to a brush fire call, they now respond with two brush trucks, an engine and a tanker to be sure to get the fire under control before it grows.
Dry and windy conditions make for high fire concern, according to SLO Co. Cal Fire
KSBY.com (San Luis Obispo, California), Nov 14, 2013
San Luis Obispo County, California
The San Luis Obispo County Cal fire chief said that extremely dry conditions and strong winds were increasing the fire danger. Extra resources were brought in to cope with the expected increase in fire activity, and the equipment was being used to fight fires in Ventura County.
Lightning sparks above-average wildfire season
Klamath Falls Herald & News (Oregon), Oct 16, 2013
Wildfires consumed more land in Oregon in 2013 than in any year since 1951 after lightning and drought contributed to blazes affecting 325 square miles. One hundred sixty-two square miles of state-protected land were blackened by wildfires, eight times the 10-year average, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. The state spent $122 million to fight the fires and expected to be reimbursed $47 million from federal agencies, leaving the state responsible for the remaining $75 million.
The fires charred an estimated $370 million worth of timber on state, private and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.
Burn bans in place as drought lingers
Shreveport Times (Louisiana), Sep 05, 2013
Many parishes in northern Louisiana have adopted burn bans since the number of fires in the area has risen. The state fire marshal said that a statewide burn ban may be needed mid-September.
Plants & Wildlife
Drought contributes to oyster shortage (w/video)
Victoria Advocate (Texas), Nov 25, 2013
Gulf Coast of Texas
Drought and higher salinity in Lavaca and San Antonio bays have cut oyster harvests by half, according to a seafood merchant in Port Lavaca.
Sandhill cranes thrive in the San Joaquin Valley wetlands
FresnoBee.com (California), Nov 23, 2013
San Joaquin Valley, California
Drought reduced the amount of wetlands in the San Joaquin Valley because the dry ground soaks up water, shrinking the spatial extent of the wetlands, stated a recreation planner for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuges receive 100 percent of their requested water even in drought years because a 1992 environmental reform law, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, gives refuges a higher priority than some farms.
FWC closes Apalachicola Bay to weekend oyster harvesting
The Florida Current (Tallahassee, Fla.), Nov 22, 2013
Apalachicola Bay, Florida)
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission closed Apalachicola Bay to oyster harvesting starting on Nov. 23, due to drought and reduced freshwater inflows from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. The oyster population in the bay took a nosedive in the summer of 2012 and has not recovered. The bay will remain closed to oyster harvesting through May 31, 2014.
How LCRA River Restrictions Are Affecting Oyster Harvesters In Matagorda Bay
Texas Public Radio (San Antonio, Texas), Nov 20, 2013
Matagorda Bay, Texas
Years of drought and reduced fresh water inflow to the Matagorda Bay have allowed the salinity of the bay to climb to unhealthy levels for oysters, shrimp and other aquatic life, reducing their populations. The lack of fresh water also has limited the bird population at Matagorda Bay, the birding capital of North America.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
Moratorium placed on new well construction
Beatrice Daily Sun (Nebraska), Dec 03, 2013
The Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District announced a moratorium on new wells for 180 days as a new groundwater management study plan is done. The 2012 drought left several towns wondering if they would have enough water.
Drought: New Mexico governor proposes $2 million for water research
El Paso Times (Texas), Nov 22, 2013
Governor Martinez of New Mexico hopes the Legislature will direct $2 million toward research on water issues when its session begins in 2014. Just days ago she proposed using 60 percent of the state’s capital spending budget, or $112 million, on water projects as drought and aging infrastructure jeopardize the water supply.
The state climatologist, Dave DuBois, said that portions or all of New Mexico have endured drought since 2000.
Program Designed to Help Prepare for Droughts
ABC News, Nov 15, 2013
A drought preparedness program was announced by Obama administration officials to help communities get ready for impending drought and to know how best to respond when droughts do occur. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will head up the project.
Facing Drought, Wichita Falls Bans Outdoor Watering
The Texas Tribune (Austin, Texas), Nov 12, 2013
Wichita Falls, Texas
Stage 4 water restrictions began on Nov. 16 because the combined storage of lakes Kickapoo and Arrowhead fell below 30 percent of capacity. Under stage 4 restrictions, all outdoor watering is prohibited, and local businesses will face an internal audit of water use.
The quality of Wichita Falls’ drinking water has deteriorated because drought has depleted Lakes Arrowhead and Kickapoo. The amount of total dissolved solids has increased from 250 parts per million (ppm) to 1,000 ppm.
Drought forces Waimea water restriction
Big Island Video News (Hilo, Hawaii), Nov 09, 2013
Big Island, Hawaii
Water customers in Waimea were ordered to curb their water use by 25 percent as the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply declared the area to be under water restriction on the evening of Nov. 8. The affected area extends “from Waimea down to, but not including, Kawaihae Village Subdivision, Waimea Airport, Lalamilo Farm lots, and Puukapu-Honokaia-Nienie areas; South Kohala, Hawaii.”
Society & Public Health
Underwater ghost town: Old Bluffton
KVUE.com (Austin, Texas), Nov 14, 2013
Lake Buchanan in central Texas
The remains of Bluffton, a community that became submerged after the construction of Buchanan Dam in 1937, has reappeared as drought lowered the lake level.
It's a busy season for bears in Nevada
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nevada), Oct 28, 2013
Lake Tahoe area of Nevada
Black bears have been causing more problems than usual for Nevada wildlife officials as the bears seek out food in northern Nevada and the foothills of the Carson Range in advance of winter hibernation. Drought reduced the amount of nuts and berries available, leaving the bears to roam into residential areas in search of a meal. Three black bears have wandered into Carson City in recent days.
The exact numbers of nuisance bears were not available because the state biologist has been too busy answering calls about bears, but 2013 may turn out to be one of the most active years on record for the bears.
Food price inflation rate eases as drought conditions improve
Drovers Cattle Network (Lenexa, Kan.), Sep 25, 2013
Food costs rose just 0.2 percent between July and August, which was substantially lower than the difference between those months in previous years when drought was a large factor in rising food prices. The inflation rate was 4.8 percent in 2011 and 2.5 percent in 2012.
Nebraska Flooding Reduced because of Drought
KMTV (Omaha, Neb.), Sep 25, 2013
Southern Nebraska along Platte River
Drought alleviated some of the flooding that would have otherwise occurred along the Platte River in southern Nebraska as the dry land took in some of the water.
Tourism & Recreation
Few pheasants available as season begins Saturday
KSN.com (Wichita, Kansas), Nov 07, 2013
Low pheasant breeding populations combined with drought during much of the nesting and brooding season kept pheasant numbers low for another year in Kansas. Hunters will be hard-pressed to find many birds.
Drought claims another lakeside business
KXAN.com (Austin, Texas), Sep 24, 2013
Lake Travis near Austin, Texas
The Gnarly Gar, a floating restaurant on Lake Travis, announced that its last day of business would be on Sept. 29, due to the low level of the lake. The restaurant might reopen if the lake refills. At the end of September, Lake Travis was about 43 feet below average, giving patrons a walk of nearly 1,000 feet from the parking lot to the restaurant. Earlier in September, another restaurant, Carlos ’N Charlie’s closed, due to drought’s impact on Lake Travis.
Drought ruins popular, would-be corn maze
KOB.com (Albuquerque, New Mexico), Sep 24, 2013
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Rio Grande Community Farm planted less corn, due to drought, but will not create the usual corn maze because the corn grew to just a few feet in height. The organizers have decided to make a mini-maze for children.
Drought delays opening of $1M South Bossier Park
KSLA TV (Shreveport, Louisiana), Sep 19, 2013
Bossier City, Louisiana
Drought has prevented contractors from getting grass to grow in a new mega sports complex in South Bossier City. They have reseeded and watered, but to no avail.
Water Supply & Quality
Lake Hopatcong Refilling Starts Dec. 1 Due to 'Moderate Drought'
Hopatcong-Sparta, NJ Patch, Nov 24, 2013
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection began filling Lake Hopatcong earlier than originally planned due to the recent 90-day dry spell in the region. The lake was drawn down five feet in September to allow for trash pickup around the lake, but officials decided not to wait until Dec. 1 to begin refilling.
USGS Study: 1200 Square Miles of Central Valley Land Is Sinking
Capital Public Radio (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov 22, 2013
Central Valley of California
A large section of the Central Valley is sinking, due to water withdrawals. Many farmers in the area have turned from row crops to permanent crops, such as orchards, which must be watered or the crops will be lost at an enormous cost to the farmer. With permanent crops, farmers lose the option of letting fields lie fallow for a season when there isn’t much water for irrigation.
'Dire' prediction for state water allocation
SFGate (San Francisco, Calif.), Nov 20, 2013
The California Department of Water Resources announced its initial water allocation of 5 percent, based on present reservoir levels. Water allocations often start low and increase throughout the winter as storms bring snow that eventually fills reservoirs. Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir belonging to the State Water Project, held just 41 percent of capacity, with a historical average of 66 percent.
The State Water Project provides water to about 25 million Californians via 24 municipal water agencies and to farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley through five water agencies.
Concerns as Austin Residents Drill New Wells
The New York Times, Nov 09, 2013
While Austin residents are permitted to water just once per week, some people want to water whenever they choose and have drilled expensive wells to have the freedom to do so. Some people are apprehensive about all of the new wells, given that water is a finite resource.
Drought contributes to cholera outbreak in southern Angola
ReliefWeb (New York, N.Y.), Dec 05, 2013
Drought began toward the end of 2011 and was impacting south Angola worse than other parts of the country. The only water available is very dirty and has contributed to the spread of cholera, which affected more than 1,000 people and took 48 lives in a two-week period in November.
UN intervenes to save cattle as drought hits Zim
News24 (Cape Town, South Africa), Dec 05, 2013
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation is providing thousands of 50kg bags of stock feeds and will drill boreholes to save cattle. Many cattle in Zimbabwe have died because there is no pasture for the animals. Meanwhile, at least 14 million people in the region desperately need food aid.
Pray for rain, chief rabbis urge Israelis
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (New York, N.Y.), Dec 03, 2013
Israeli rabbis have asked the public to pray for rain after the dry winter met the definition of drought, according to Jewish law.
Drought causes 'abnormal' wildebeest migration
Times LIVE (Johannesburg, South Africa), Nov 29, 2013
Many wildebeests elected to remain in Kenya or made a quick trip to Tanzania, discovered there was little grass, due to drought, and returned to Kenya. The wildlife manager for the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya worries that the wildebeests may consume all of the park’s grass during the country’s dry season.
Can planners stop drought harming the tourist dollar?
environmentalresearchweb (Bristol, U.K.), Nov 18, 2013
Tourism and recreation industry representatives should be involved in drought preparedness activities for the benefit of the state and the tourist/recreation industry.
Drought Headlines Archive
Cloud seeding, no longer magical thinking, is poised for use this winter
The Sacramento Bee (California), Nov 11, 2013
Cloud seeding will continue to be used in California during the 2013-14 winter to boost snowfall and increase water supplies in a state that has endured two years of drought. Cloud-seeding efforts in California began more than 60 years ago and involve the spraying of silver iodide into clouds.
USDA study shows benefits of weaning calves early
Drovers Cattle Network (Lenexa, Kansas), Aug 29, 2013
Weaning calves early during drought allows cows to gain more weight and achieve better body condition than cows with nursing calves. Consequently, less harvested feedstuffs were needed for cows to maintain adequate body weights and condition during the winter.
USDA Recommends New Practice to Combat Drought
WIUM-FM Tri States Public Radio (Macomb, Illinois), Aug 27, 2013
The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service says that drain water management techniques can help farmers cope with drought as they regulate how much water is allowed to drain from a field. A device can be attached to the ends of tile lines to act as a valve to keep needed moisture from draining away.
FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: Cover crops boost yield in dry years
The Quincy Herald-Whig (Ill.), Aug 21, 2013
The use of cover crops boosted agricultural output in drought-stricken areas in 2012. In the fall of 2012 from a survey of more than 750 farmers in the Midwest, corn crops planted after cover crops yielded 9.6 percent more corn in comparison with side-by-side fields without cover crops. Soybean yields were 11.6 percent higher following cover crops.
In the driest parts of the Corn Belt, the differences were even more striking, with an 11 percent increase in yield for corn and a 14.3 percent yield increase for soybeans.