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
Study: Global warming has made California’s drought worse
San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 20, 2015
Man-made global warming has worsened California’s drought and “substantially increased” the chances of extreme droughts in the future, found researchers from Columbia University and the University of Idaho. Climate change was found to be responsible for 15 to 20 percent of the deficit in soil moisture in California from 2012 to 2014.
If drought lasts, it could mean bigger fires, wildlife die-offs, study says
The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), Aug 20, 2015
A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that, if drought continues through 2016 and 2017, the biggest crises will be devastation among wildlife populations, immense wildfires and more dry wells among poor rural communities.
Drought Monitor: Improvements focused on Southwest
Farm Progress (St. Charles, Ill.), Jul 23, 2015
Drought worsened in parts of the Southeast and eastern Dakotas, but improved in western New Mexico, northern Arizona and in California along the Arizona border.
Fresno State study says drought causes $3.3 billion in farm losses
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Aug 27, 2015
A Fresno State study of the California drought estimated that agricultural losses in the Central Valley could reach $3.3 billion while energy consumption rises as farmers pump more groundwater for their crops. Farm workers tended to find less work and experienced a drop in income. Public health can suffer from illnesses such as Valley fever, West Nile virus and diarrheal diseases with the deterioration of air and water quality.
Despite drought, California has record high crop revenue
USA Today, Aug 26, 2015
California agricultural revenue was $33.524 billion in 2014, second highest in state history, despite intense drought. Revenue was high due to the cultivation of more high-value crops, such as almonds, pistachios and wine grapes, which were irrigated with groundwater, according to a study by the Pacific Institute. The agricultural sector also employed about 417,000 people, another record high.
Kittitas hay losses in millions from drought
Capital Press Ag Weekly (Salem, Ore.), Aug 07, 2015
Kittitas County, Washington
Growers of Timothy hay in the Kittitas Valley will not get a second cutting and will not be able to seed next year’s crop for lack of water because the Kittitas Reclamation District ended its irrigation season on Aug. 6. An Ellensburg hay exporter estimated the loss at $7.6 million this year and another $2.6 million next year.
Lovelock Suffers From Ongoing Drought
KTVN-TV Channel 2 Reno (Nev.), Jul 31, 2015
Farmers in Lovelock in western Nevada have not received irrigation water the past two summers. Prior to that, farmers received just 10 percent of a normal allotment, with most farmers opting not to plant anything for the past three years.
Business & Industry
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.
California drought impact pegged at $2.7 billion
The Sacramento Bee, Aug 18, 2015
Drought in 2015 has been estimated to cost California's economy $2.7 billion, said researchers from the University of California at Davis. Direct crop revenue losses come to $900 million and will cost dairy and livestock producers $350 million. Rice, alfalfa and corn production were most affected by the drought.
Heavy groundwater pumping this year has added an estimated $590 million to farmers’ costs, which has been figured into the estimated impact of $2.7 billion.
With fewer acres in production, farm workers were expected to be out of 10,100 seasonal farm jobs. Including indirect job losses, the overall job loss figure climbs to 21,000.
California drought brings a golden lining
The Sacramento Bee, Jun 22, 2015
Sierra Nevada, California
Low water levels in California’s drought-sapped rivers and streams have exposed more riverbed for prospectors seeking gold. Some stretches have become too dry for panning and sluicing, but in the meantime, prospectors keep finding new areas rich with gold. Hardware and mining supply stores from Columbia in Tuolumne County to Auburn in Placer County benefited from the renewed interest of locals and tourists hoping to find a few pieces of gold.
Bottled-water business grows during drought
Redding Record Searchlight (Calif.), May 10, 2015
Californians were becoming increasingly outraged at companies bottling and selling the state’s water amid a four year drought. Crystal Geyser Water Co. was opening a plant at the base of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County and intends to take up to 365,000 gallons of groundwater daily, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Nearby residents worry that the plant will run their wells dry.
California pool, hot tub filling bans have industries steaming
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), May 10, 2015
Bay Area pool builders and hot tub retailers were struggling to keep customers from cancelling construction contracts as water restrictions and intense drought deter people from using water. Contractors have also had to find new sources of water to fill the pools, given that water restrictions prohibit the use of potable water for pool and hot tub filling.
California First To Feel Hydro-Power Crunch Of Drought
CBS2/KCAL9 (Studio City, Calif.), Mar 21, 2015
During the past three years, declining hydropower production in California cost utility customers $1.4 billion as power from alternate sources, such as natural gas-fired plants, was purchased to compensate for reduced hydroelectric production. The use of more fossil fuels also drove California carbon dioxide emissions up 8 percent.
Hydropower production at Lake Mead in May is expected to dip to 50 percent of mid-2014 levels.
Drought Shutters Hydro Power Generation
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nev.), Jul 30, 2014
Three hydropower plants belonging to the Truckee Meadows Power Authority were shutting down because there was not enough water to keep the plants operating. The plants will probably be able to generate hydropower again in January or February.
Drought hinders state's emissions goals
San Francisco Chronicle, Jul 20, 2014
Drought has cut into hydropower production in California, driving energy costs higher as the state turns to other more expensive energy sources. Hydropower generation dropped from 18.2 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2012 when drought began.
Despite years of decreases in greenhouse gas emissions since 2004, California’s emissions began to rise in 2012, due to drought and the closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant in San Diego County. Emissions data for 2013 were not yet available.
Australians, New Zealanders join U.S. wildfire fray
USA Today, Aug 25, 2015
About 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand arrived to assist with firefighting in the West. This year stands out as one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, with nearly 12,000 square miles burned from the start of 2015 through the morning of Aug. 25. More than 27,000 fire fighters and support personnel were battling blazes nationwide.
Wildfires rage in U.S. Northwest, army and foreign crews called in
Reuters, Aug 21, 2015
As numerous wildfires blazed in the Pacific Northwest, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told the press that his agency was on track to exhaust its firefighting budget by early September. Necessary funds and assets would still be available where needed to fight fires. Scores of wildfires burned in the western U.S., where resources were stretched thin.
Army troops mobilized to help fight wildfires out West
Duluth News Tribune (Minn.), Aug 18, 2015
Two hundred U.S. Army soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash. were called to assist civilian firefighters battling dozens of major wildfires, blazing largely out of control in the drought-stricken West. Fire managers requested the mobilization, the first since 2006, as fire crews from federal, state and local agencies were stretched exceedingly thin, trying to contain wildfires that have blackened more than 1 million acres across the parched West during a heat wave.
More than 29,000 civilian firefighters were already deployed in the West. Most property losses occurred in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, with the loss of 108 homes in those states from Aug. 14 through Aug. 18.
State says firefighting resources stretched thin
MyNorthwest.com (Seattle), Aug 13, 2015
Washington state firefighters have their hands very full with five large fires and numerous smaller fires statewide, in addition to loaning firefighters and air resources to neighboring states battling wildfires.
Counties begin enacting burn bans
Houston Chronicle (Texas), Aug 11, 2015
Numerous Texas counties, from the Houston area through central and east Texas, have adopted burn bans, due to the intense heat and lack of rain in July and August.
Plants & Wildlife
California drought may exacerbate wildlife-human encounters
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Aug 22, 2015
Unusual animal activity has been observed amid California’s drought and some have thought that the lack of food and water was to blame. State officials and animal experts claim that drought has exacerbated long-term trends, such as habitat fragmentation, and natural animal behaviors in a region that was becoming increasingly developed.
Drought sets up 'emergency situation' for California's trees
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Aug 16, 2015
Water conservation in California has had an unintended effect: trees have gone unwatered and were showing signs of stress. Statewide, trees were dying, which will reduce habitat, shade and property values, prompting cities to act before more trees are lost. Species suffering the most along the Sierra’s western slopes included pine trees, especially Jeffrey, lodge pole, ponderosa, sugar and white bark varieties. The giant sequoia trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks were also affected by drought, with more dead foliage than usual in 2014 and 2015.
Trout in trucks: Drought forces evacuation of San Joaquin Hatchery
The Fresno Bee (Calif.), Aug 12, 2015
About 80,000 pounds of rainbow trout were moved from the San Joaquin Hatchery in Millerton Lake to the cooler water in Shaver Lake to save the fish from warm water temperatures near 70 degrees. The first trout transport began on Aug. 12, and more trout will be moved to lakes in Fresno and Madera counties. This was the first time fish had to be rescued from warm waters of the San Joaquin Hatchery.
Drought could hurt endangered fish caught in water fight
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Aug 04, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California
A key index of delta smelt abundance fell to zero in July because there were so few smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The numbers of delta smelt have been declining for years due to invasive predators, pollution, habitat loss and increased water exports through the delta, and drought could drive them to extinction. Other native fish species, such as longfin smelt, green sturgeon and winter-run Chinook salmon, were also struggling to maintain a presence during the drought.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
California sets low-flow standards on new shower heads
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Aug 12, 2015
The California Energy Commission adopted more stringent low-flow standards for showerheads in an effort to conserve water in the state’s fourth year of drought. The present California standard for showerheads was 2.5 gallons per minute. Starting in July 2016, the standard will drop to 2 gallons per minute, and in July 2018, the standard will tighten further to 1.8 gallons per minute.
California drought: High court hands setback to water conservation fight
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Jul 23, 2015
The California Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling, making it unconstitutional for water providers to charge more for water than it costs to provide the service. California water officials urged the Supreme Court to “depublish” the ruling to allow water providers to punish water wasters with higher water rates and encourage conservation.
Catawba County’s drought status worsens
Hickory Daily Record (N.C.), Jul 21, 2015
North and South Carolina
Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group changed the status of the Catawba-Wateree River basin to Stage 1. Water users were urged to voluntarily conserve water, and Duke Energy made operational adjustments.
The updated drought status reflects declining water storage and below normal stream flows, due to low rainfall and high temperatures.
California proposes historic $1.5M fine for taking water
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Jul 20, 2015
The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in the eastern San Francisco Bay area may be fined $1.5 million for taking more water than it is entitled to take, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. If the fine stands, it would be the first against a holder of a claim dating back more than a century.
All of South Carolina now under drought status
The Manning Times (S.C.), Jul 17, 2015
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee considered all of the state to be in incipient or moderate drought during a July 16 meeting.
Society & Public Health
California residents cut water use 31 percent in July
The Sacramento Bee, Aug 27, 2015
California urban water use fell 31 percent in July, compared with water use in 2013, for a savings of more than 74 billion gallons. The 31 percent water savings well exceeds the governor’s mandate for a 25 percent reduction in water use. Roughly 4 in 5 of the state’s about 420 water districts met the 25 percent goal in July. Most big cities also made their conservation targets, but four water districts missed their target by more than 15 percent.
Crowdfunding campaign for California drought relief
KESQ (Thousand Palms, Calif.), Aug 27, 2015
The California Drought Relief Fund, a crowd-funding campaign, was started by a group of non-profit organizations and businesses to offer assistance to California families touched by drought and wildfires. The fund will support local relief organizations helping families who run out of water due to severe drought, mainly in the Central and Salinas valleys, and wildfire victims statewide.
Drought Radio Station Will Help You Time Your Showers
Burlingame-Hillsborough Patch (Calif.), Aug 22, 2015
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California created an internet radio station that plays five-minute songs to help people time their showers and conserve water. The “Water Lovers Station” can be found on Pandora and Spanish-language Uforia streaming-music services.
Poll: Americans favor farmers during drought
Klamath Falls Herald and News (Ore.), Aug 04, 2015
Most Americans think that farmers should be favored when deciding who gets water during drought and water restrictions, found a poll conducted by Associated Press-Gfk. Seventy percent thought that the government should restrict how much water residents and businesses use amid drought.
When asked to prioritize water use, 74 percent felt that agriculture ought to be a top or high priority, with residential needs coming in second (66 percent), wildlife and ecosystems (54 percent) and business and industry (42 percent). Participants’ responses were fairly similar across the nation.
State reduced water use 27 percent in June, hitting conservation target
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Jul 30, 2015
Californians curbed their water use in June by 27 percent, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, exceeding the governor’s demand for 25 percent water conservation.
Of the 400 individual conservation targets assigned to the state’s largest water agencies, 16 agencies—mostly in central or southern California—missed their conservation target by more than 15 percentage points. One small Central Valley community, ordered to cut water use by 32 percent, only lowered its water use by 3 percent.
Another 71 water agencies missed their goal by 5 to 15 percentage points, while 53 water providers fell short of their target by 1 to 5 percent.
Tourism & Recreation
Drought forces cancellation of Lake Elsinore Grand Prix
The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.), Aug 20, 2015
Riverside County, California
The Lake Elsinore Grand Prix, scheduled for November, was canceled for lack of water. Due to mandated water conservation, the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District cannot provide the roughly 1 million gallons of potable water needed to rebuild and maintain the racetrack and control dust. The district offered recycled water, but there were not enough access points to distribute the water to meet the Grand Prix’s needs.
California drought hasn't killed summer vacations
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Aug 09, 2015
Despite years of drought, travel spending continued to climb 3.6 percent in 2014 to $117.5 billion. This year was also on track to be another great year, despite boat ramps, swimming and picnic areas being closed at some lakes.
Drought emerges in Asheville-area counties
Asheville Citizen Times (N.C.), Jul 27, 2015
Asheville, North Carolina
Float trips on the French Broad River were taking nearly twice as long as usual because the flow of the river was 666 cubic feet per second, compared with the average of 1,300 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Afternoon fishing to be shut down on Oregon rivers
Salem Statesman-Journal (Ore.), Jul 16, 2015
Fishing was prohibited or limited on more than 30 rivers in Washington to protect fish amid ongoing drought. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the closures and restrictions, which began on July 18, would remain in effect until further notice.
Afternoon fishing on most Oregon rivers and creeks was suspended by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sturgeon fishing was temporarily prohibited on the Columbia River upstream of the Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. Oregon and Washington fishery managers found increased drought-related sturgeon mortality in some mid-Columbia River reservoirs.
Water Supply & Quality
Judge denies attempt to block extra water for Klamath salmon
The Sacramento Bee, Aug 26, 2015
Klamath River in northern California
A federal judge in Fresno denied a request for a temporary restraining order to block emergency water releases to protect Klamath River salmon from low, warm river flows. The Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority sought the order. The judge felt that the water districts were not likely to win their lawsuit, which claims that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has no authority to release the water and should have done a more thorough study of the possible environmental harms.
The bureau began releasing water for salmon from a reservoir on the Trinity River on Aug. 21.
Unusual Delta algae bloom worries researchers
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Aug 25, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
A large microcystis bloom has developed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as evidenced by small flecks of bright green in the water. Microcystis is a type of blue-green algae that can produce lethal toxins in high concentrations to fish and people, but was not currently present in such concentrations. The algae bloom was observed in the central and north parts of the Delta, and the highest microcystis concentrations were found nearest to the freshwater side of the salinity barrier.
California water prices set to rise next year -Fitch
Reuters, Aug 18, 2015
Most retail water utilities polled by Fitch said that water rate increases would start next year or had already begun. The median water rate increase looks to be about 5 percent, but will hit 31 percent for some water users. With mandated reductions in water use, utilities sell less water, slimming financial margins.
Officials: Less chance of Colorado River water cuts in 2017
Yakima Herald (Wash.), Aug 17, 2015
Colorado River Basin
Thanks to abundant rainfall in Colorado during May and June increasing the water level in Lake Mead, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projected normal water deliveries in the Colorado River Basin through 2016 and possibly through 2017. Prior to that rain, the bureau’s 24-month projection warned of the possibility of supply cuts of 4.3 percent to Nevada and 11.4 percent to Arizona in 2016.
SAWS announces Stage 2 water restrictions in effect
KABB FOX 29 (San Antonio, Texas), Aug 14, 2015
San Antonio, Texas
Stage 2 water restrictions begin on Aug. 15 in San Antonio because the 10-day rolling average of the Edwards Aquifer monitoring well fell to 650 feet above mean sea level.
Severe droughts could lead to widespread losses of butterflies by 2050
Phys.org, Aug 10, 2015
The extinctions of drought-sensitive butterfly populations could occur in the United Kingdom as early as 2050, according to research by scientists from UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the charity Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and the University of Exeter. With considerable greenhouse gas emission reductions and better landscape management by curbing habitat fragmentation, specifically, drought-sensitive butterflies may exist through 2100.
Water stress takes toll on California's large trees, study says
Los Angeles Times, Jan 20, 2015
California’s forests have become denser with smaller trees and more susceptible to fast-moving wildfires, due to drought, fire-suppression techniques and changes in land use. Tree surveys performed between 1929 and 1936 and 2001 and 2010 were analyzed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey. The surveys showed a reduction in large tree density across the state with drops as high as 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central Coast Ranges and Northern California.
Ag uses for highly saline water researched
Albuquerque Journal (N.M.), Jan 05, 2015
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Experiments with alternative water sources, like wastewater and highly saline water, to irrigate crops and urban areas were underway at New Mexico State University. The aim is to conserve potable water and maintain agricultural practices, said a professor of soil physics at NMSU. Barley and triticale, biomass plants lepidium alyssoides and switchgrass, and fodder plants Atriplex and NiPa Grass are being used.
Floods Breed Cooperation, Droughts Breed Conflict
Water Online, Dec 16, 2014
Floods require emergency response that is short-lived, while droughts often mean sustained response efforts where decisions over water allocations must be made, sometimes leading to conflict.
Drought Headlines Archive
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.
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.