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
Slight Drought Expands in Upper Midwest
Farm Progress (St. Charles, Ill.), Nov 06, 2014
Drought expanded in parts of the Southeast and South and improved in the Texas Panhandle, central and eastern Oklahoma and areas along the West Coast.
Lake Tahoe Reaches Natural Rim
KOLO-TV (Reno, Nevada), Oct 15, 2014
Lake Tahoe has fallen to the point that it no longer feeds the Truckee River. The lake has contributed little to the river in recent months.
Another Dust Bowl? California Drought Resembles Worst in Millennium
LiveScience (Los Angeles), Oct 15, 2014
Researchers from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that 1934 was far and away the worst drought in North America between 1000 and 2005. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast was present in 1934 and also during the current drought.
California ends one of driest-ever water years
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Sep 30, 2014
The 2014 water year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30) was one of the driest on record, with California receiving less than 60 percent of average precipitation. Collectively, major reservoirs in the state held only 57 percent of average storage, as of Sept. 1.
Orange growers assess drought impact on crop
Ag Alert (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov 12, 2014
California oranges were unevenly sized, due to drought and insufficient water. Survey data showed that fruit had an average circumference of 2.205 inches, compared to the five-year average of 2.256 inches. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initial 2014-15 navel orange crop forecast in September estimated a harvest of about 78 million cartons, slightly lower than the 2013-14 season of 81 million cartons.
There was still time for rain to increase the fruit size, said a member of the California Farm Bureau Federation citrus advisory committee.
Vegetable supplies expected to be tight through Thanksgiving
The Produce News (Oradell, N.J.), Oct 31, 2014
Vegetable supplies are not expected to meet demand through Thanksgiving because the drought ravaging California has moved up the timeline for harvest, but there aren’t many fields left to harvest. Vegetables from the Yuma, Arizona area are late due to rainfall in late August and early September.
Farmers sue state over drought water decisions
The Fresno Bee (California), Oct 28, 2014
San Joaquin Valley in California
Growers in the Friant Water Authority have sued the State Water Resources Control Board over water supply decisions, which left them with no federal water this year, and claim that the board illegally denied water to the senior rights-holding San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. Water from Millerton Lake was then given to the SJREC, rather than the East Side farmers. The decision to withhold the water must not be allowed to happen again, say the East Side farmers.
Business & Industry
State exports stay strong despite slowing ag shipments
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov 04, 2014
California’s exports of non-manufactured goods, consisting of mainly agricultural produce and raw materials, were nearly the same as last year, which analysts say was a byproduct of the exceptional drought gripping the state.
“With each passing month, we are seeing mounting evidence of the adverse impact the drought is having on California’s multibillion-dollar agricultural export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser with Beacon, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
California drought boosts South Bay synthetic turf businesses as homeowners turn to artificial grass
Torrance Daily Breeze (California), Oct 27, 2014
South Bay, California
The California synthetic turf industry is thriving as sales skyrocket. One South Bay landscaper reported jumps in annual revenues from under $300,000 in 2012 to more than $2.5 million in the first nine months of the year. An artificial grass supplier based in Torrance reported turf sales for 2014 are on track to be double those of 2013, when 625,000 square feet of turf were sold.
California drought worries pool industry
Yahoo! Finance, Oct 05, 2014
The California pool industry is concerned that more than three dozen water agencies and cities have set rules on pool maintenance. In some cities, residents may not drain or refill pools or must cover pools with covers to reduce evaporation. While business is fine at present, people in the pool industry worry that ongoing drought will eventually hurt pool-related businesses. The California Pool & Spa Association says that pools use less water than traditionally irrigated lawns, and the use of a pool cover reduces evaporation by up to 90 percent.
Construction delayed on canola processing plant, but project still is going forward
Enidnews.com (Enid, Oklahoma), Sep 17, 2014
Construction of a canola processing plant in Enid has been delayed, in part, to the poor canola crop in the region. The past few years have been dry, which has hurt the canola and wheat crops. Work on the $250 million Northstar Agri Industries canola processing plant will continue at a later date.
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.
California may rely on more gas-fired generation due to drought
Reuters, Jan 10, 2014
With less water stored in California reservoirs, less hydropower will likely be produced in the state in 2014, leading to greater reliance on natural gas-fired power production.
In 2011, hydropower accounted for an above average 21.3 percent and natural gas was used for 45.4 percent of in-state electricity production. In 2012, dry conditions in California shifted the balance to 13.8 percent hydropower and 61.1 percent gas-fired generation. Hydropower is cheaper than gas-fired power.
Wildfires prove costly for California budget
Los Angeles Times, Sep 29, 2014
The expense of fighting California’s many wildfires has used the $209 million set aside for the task, prompting Gov. Brown to access another $70 million from a reserve account, containing $449 million designated for unexpected costs like natural disasters, as fires continue to burn. The federal government may reimburse the state for some of the firefighting costs incurred so far.
State officials set aside more money than usual for firefighting, but the funds were spent less than three months after they were marked for firefighting. In addition, the extra money spent on firefighting has made the governor reluctant to commit funds to other programs.
Pacific Northwest wildfire season: Oregon and Washington topped nation in acres burned
Oregon Live (Portland, Ore.), Sep 24, 2014
Oregon and Washington endured 3,270 wildfires that burned 1,284,013 acres of federal, state and private land from the start of 2014 through Sept. 22, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The number of fires was lower than the 10-year average, but the spatial extent of the fires was nearly three times the 10-year average of 452,039 acres. The largest fire in each state was the Carlton Complex in Washington at 256,108 acres and the Buzzard Complex in southeastern Oregon at 395,747 acres. Both states have been affected by drought since the start of the year.
Total firefighting costs have risen to $446 million, in comparison with $235 million at this time last year, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Little rain makes for anxious fire officials
FOX6 WBRC-TV (Birmingham, Alabama), Aug 30, 2014
Dry conditions have allowed more fires than usual across Alabama, where summer is not normally a part of their fire season. During a recent seven-day period, 43 wildfires blackened more than 593 acres, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Plants & Wildlife
Preserving an Accident, the Salton Sea in California, for the Good of Nature
The New York Times, Nov 10, 2014
Salton Sea in Southern California
Drought and less water from the Colorado River are combining to allow the salty Salton Sea to slowly shrink. Less shallow water and fewer fish leave the migrating pelicans and grebes hungry. As more of the lakebed is exposed, more dust blows and affects children’s respiratory systems. The highest childhood asthma rates in the state are near the Salton Sea.
Cranes crowd Staten Island as other Valley habitat dries up
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Nov 07, 2014
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
About twice as many sandhill cranes as usual have come to winter on Staten Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A much larger population of greater white fronted geese has also arrived on the island. A conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy and other scientists were unsure of the exact reason for the change, but think that drought and a shift in cultivated crops are responsible for the vast number of birds showing up on Staten Island.
Deaths of Galveston Bay clams may signal trouble
Wichita Falls Times Record News (Texas), Oct 31, 2014
Galveston Bay, Texas
Fewer rangia clams exist in the northeast inlet of Galveston Bay, suggesting to scientists that there was not enough fresh water flowing into the bay from the Trinity River. Rangia clams are found near sources of fresh water and do not reproduce or mature when the water is too salty. Because the mollusk is not commercially harvested, its location and abundance has not been closely monitored, except in connection with oyster surveys.
Western drought disrupts Nevada duck migration
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Oct 29, 2014
Drought has limited suitable habitat for ducks in Nevada as surface water supplies dry up. Wildlife experts say that ducks will keep flying south past the state, searching for better wintering grounds elsewhere if Nevada is too dry, resulting in hunters bagging fewer ducks.
Sacramento Valley farmers are asked: Help the ducks
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Oct 28, 2014
Sacramento Valley, California
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has offered money to farmers in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties to flood rice fields through Feb. 1 to provide more habitat for migrating waterfowl. Typically, Valley rice farmers flood about 300,000 acres to aid the decomposition of rice stubble, but this year, the California Rice Commission estimated that about 50,000 acres will be flooded, due to drought. This will leave millions of ducks and geese without suitable habitat.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
California, Nevada governors team up on drought
Chico Enterprise-Record (California), Nov 13, 2014
The Western Governors’ Association met with the goal of devising the best ways of coping with the epic drought parching the western U.S. for three years. Discussions included managing drought’s effects on agriculture.
Higher Food Prices, Drought Water Bank Possible if 2015 is Dry, Water Officials Tell State Board of Food and Ag
Association of California Water Agencies (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov 04, 2014
From a potential drought water bank to increased food prices and assistance for unemployed farmworkers, water planners on the local, state and federal levels are gearing up for a possible dry 2015.
That was the overview delivered by water officials from many agencies who appeared before the California State Board of Food and Agriculture to discuss how another dry year might impact groundwater, agriculture, food prices, and water system operations. The discussion was part of a briefing on plans for 2015.
Temporary moratorium for new water service connections ordered in Hidden Valley Lake
Lake Country News (Lucerne, Calif.), Oct 28, 2014
Hidden Valley Lake, California
The Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District was ordered to stop allowing new service connections to its water system because there was insufficient water to meet demand. The State Water Resources Control Board issued the temporary service connection moratorium on Oct. 17. The district must find an alternate water source before the moratorium will be lifted.
Twenty-one other water districts in California also received such orders.
Brown vetoes $100 million boost for UC, Cal State
Beaumont Enterprise (Texas), Sep 27, 2014
Gov. Brown of California vetoed legislation that would have given $100 million to the University of California and California State University partly because the cost of firefighting has been excessive this year. The governor listed several other reasons for withholding the funds, saying that California’s aging infrastructure needed maintenance and the state has debts. Nearly 5,000 wildfires have scorched the state this year, up 26 percent from an average of about 3,900 fires, said state fire officials.
Society & Public Health
Byproduct of drought: Water thieves
Contra Costa Times (Calif.), Nov 07, 2014
Water thefts are becoming more common in the Bay Area and from urban suppliers in California, according to the Association of California Water Agencies and several Bay Area water districts. Some water rustlers fill up at water hydrants during the night, while others are bolder and take water in broad daylight.
A number of cities including Lemoore, Modesto, Los Gatos, Dublin, San Ramon and others have recently dealt with such thefts.
City Of Santa Monica Joins "Dirty Car Pledge" To Help Fight Drought
Santa Monica Mirror (Calif.), Nov 13, 2014
Nearly 6,000 Californians have committed to not washing their cars to conserve water and raise drought awareness as they take part in Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s “Dirty Car Pledge.” More than 300 Santa Monica city vehicles are staying dirty to conserve water, and Burbank was not washing more than 350 vehicles for 60 days.
Drought Monitor authors encourage growers’ input
Capital Press (Salem, Oregon), Nov 10, 2014
U.S. Drought Monitor authors attended a seminar at the University of California in Davis on Nov. 7 to explain to California growers how the drought map comes together each week. People were also invited to share drought impact information to provide a more accurate picture of drought conditions statewide for the DM and the Drought Impact Reporter.
Drought Dries Up Business In Mineral Wells
CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Nov 03, 2014
Mineral Wells, Texas
People living around Lake Palo Pinto must use less than 5,000 gallons of water per month because the lake held just 10 percent of its capacity.
A parched farm town is sinking, and so are its residents' hearts
Los Angeles Times, Oct 24, 2014
The water table in Stratford has dropped 100 feet in the past two years as farmers pump more water to compensate for what storm systems did not bring. Three full years of drought have taken a toll on this small town. There is less work, more unemployed people, fewer paychecks, more hunger and greater demand for food assistance. Fewer migrant children returned to school this fall as their parents uproot their children to look for work.
Tourism & Recreation
As drought continues, boat ramps close on area lakes
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Oct 17, 2014
Dallas-Fort Worth area
Ongoing drought has dropped lake levels to the point that many boat ramps were no longer useable in north central Texas. The last accessible boat ramp at Eagle Mountain Lake was closed mid-September when water levels fell to a critical point.
At Benbrook Lake, the only open boat ramp was at Mustang Park. Many boat ramps were closed at Lake Grapevine, but most ramps were still open at Joe Pool Lake, Lewisville Lake and Lake Ray Roberts.
Worsening California drought starting to limit outdoor recreation
San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 17, 2014
Numerous California lakes and parks continue to feel the pain of the ongoing drought. Yosemite Falls has gone dry; many parks have porta potties for use, instead of flush toilets; and boat ramps were closed. Many plants were also showing drought stress by turning color and dropping leaves early.
Soaking up Catalina, tourists pose dilemma
The Bend Bulletin (Oregon), Aug 14, 2014
Catalina Island, California
Water users in Avalon were told to cut their water use by 25 percent as the city moved into stage 2 mandatory water restrictions on Aug. 11 as the island’s reservoir neared a record low. Since Avalon is a popular tourist destination, it is imperative that the island’s 1 million tourists also conserve along with the town’s 4,000 year-round residents.
To educate visitors about the scarce water supply, signs were posted in hotel rooms asking guests to keep showers brief. Some restaurants began serving food on paper plates and sell customers bottled water for 50 cents when customers request water. Hotels plan to begin sending laundry to the mainland rather than washing it in Avalon.
Tahoe Queen runs aground with 257 on board
Lake Tahoe News (South Lake Tahoe, California), Aug 04, 2014
About 300 people were rescued on South Lake Tahoe on Aug. 4 after the paddlewheel boat they were on ran aground onto a sand bar. The boat, its crew and 257 passengers were stranded roughly 600 yards from Regan Beach.
Water Supply & Quality
Drought Photos: See Lake Oroville Fall Near Historic Low Over 20 Months
KQED (San Francisco), Nov 14, 2014
Lake Oroville in Butte County, California
Lake Oroville is the second largest reservoir in the state after Lake Shasta and is the main reservoir for the State Water Project. The lake was at 652 feet above sea level on Nov. 8, not far from the record low of 645 feet set on Sept. 7, 1977.
Contaminated Groundwater Wells Close In South Lake Tahoe
Capital Public Radio (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov 12, 2014
Three wells in South Lake Tahoe were found to have high levels of a carcinogen, PCBE, often associated with dry cleaning, as drought causes groundwater levels to fall, concentrating contaminants in the remaining water. The PCBE concentration was nine times the allowable level in two wells.
A well near Stateline was contaminated with MTBE from a gas station. The gas station owner has to buy bottled water for a motel that depends on the well.
We were asked to cut 10% of our water use — we didn't
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Nov 06, 2014
Customers of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority cut water use by 7.5 percent, despite a request for 10 percent water conservation in late July. In spite of the small shortfall, the water savings allowed the TMWA to avoid drawing water from its largest drought reserve reservoir, Independence Lake, and to keep the use of its drought reserves to 18 percent, with the goal being less than 20 percent of the 27,500 acre-feet available.
Lake levels continue historic downward spiral
Wichita Falls Times Record News (Texas), Nov 05, 2014
Wichita Falls, Texas
Stage 5 drought catastrophe water restrictions continue in Wichita Falls as the lake levels continued their decline.
Syria's opposition warns of upcoming food shortage
Fox News, Nov 13, 2014
Drought and civil war have cut Syria’s wheat production by half, compared to production averages between 2001 and 2011. A severe food crisis looms in the next few months, and aid is desperately needed.
Thai Sugar Output May Drop From Record as Drought Hurts Yields
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Nov 12, 2014
Drought decreased sugar production in Thailand, the world’s second largest sugar grower. Sugar output will likely range from 10 million to 11 million metric tons from a cane crush of 98 million to 103 million tons, said a spokesman for Thai Sugar Millers Corp. Cane growth was hindered by dry weather from May through July, which left cane shorter than usual.
Biggest Brazil Metro Area Desperate for Water
The New York Times, Nov 07, 2014
The reservoir for the city of Itu has been reduced to 2 percent of its capacity, and tap water hasn’t flowed in weeks. Because people are desperate for water, police escort the water trucks. Violent protests have broken out as people demand that water begin flowing through their taps again. Brazil’s rainy season begins in December.
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.