Saturday, August 19, 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

US: 'Zero' chance of Colorado River water shortage in 2018
The Pueblo Chieftain (Colo.), Aug 15, 2017
Colorado River Basin

Deep snowpack in the Rocky Mountains kept those relying on Lake Mead from cutbacks in 2018.  The January 2018 water level is projected to be 8 feet above the drought shortage trigger.

Hot, Dry and Worrisome: 2016 Was a Record-Breaking Year for Climate
Inside Climate News (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Aug 11, 2017

A number of records were broken in 2016 climate-wise, among them was the prevalence of drought, affecting more than a tenth of the planet during all months of the year.

The drought is back and shows no signs of leaving soon (Augusta, Maine), Aug 10, 2017

As abnormal dryness and patches of moderate drought return to Maine, “things are actually worse in many cases than last year,” according to journalist David Epstein.

Drought Beginning To Grow Over SW Montana
KBZK (Bozeman, Mont.), Aug 03, 2017

Drought has continued to intensify and expand across Montana for the 11th week, with the southwestern part of the state seeing more abnormal dryness.

Drought spreads and intensifies across US Northern Plains
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Aug 04, 2017
Northern Plains

Growing drought in the Northern Plains continues to intensify, leading farmers to wean cattle early.  Beans, peas and lentils were being harvested two to three weeks early, with yields about half of normal.  The wheat harvest amounted to one-third of normal.


Early start, fewer apples predicted for Michigan's harvest
Detroit Free Press, Aug 15, 2017

Michigan’s apple crop is expected to be 20 million bushels, according to Fruit Growers News, down from the average of 24 million bushels proffered by the Michigan Apple Committee.  The harvest ought to be anywhere from a few days to ten days early, due to drought.

Drought delivers double-whammy to southwestern North Dakota
West Fargo Pioneer (N.D.), Aug 14, 2017
Southwestern North Dakota

The drought and poor small grains crops in North Dakota meant that fewer custom harvesters came to the area.  To encourage more business, the harvesters lowered their rate by $5 per acre, knowing that farmers were not getting good yields, given that many had cut their wheat for hay rather than harvesting it for grain.  Yields have ranged from five bushels an acre up to 30 bushels per acre, the top end of the range being about half of a typical yield.

Drought's toll likely billions of dollars for N.D. economy
Grand Forks Herald (N.D.), Aug 13, 2017
North Dakota

At a minimum, the direct economic impact of drought to the farming and ranching community in North Dakota could be $1.12 billion, according to North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, as the grain harvest was on track to be significantly less than the 2016 harvest.  An Aug. 10 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture put spring wheat production at 186 million bushels, 31 percent lower than 2016; durum wheat was expected to be 56 percent lower; and winter wheat may be down 74 percent.

Bee producers impacted by drought N.D.
KFYR-TV/West Dakota FOX (Bismarck, N.D.), Aug 11, 2017
Western North Dakota

A beekeeper in Halliday expects that his bees were only producing 50 to 60 percent of the normal amount of honey as drought reduced the amount of nectar available for the bees.

SD farmers to take in smallest wheat harvest since 2002, also a drought year
Capital Journal (Pierre, S.D.), Aug 11, 2017
South Dakota

South Dakota’s wheat harvest will be the smallest this year since 2002, also a drought year, when the harvest was 20.1 million bushels.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects the state to produce just 24.7 million bushels of winter wheat this year.

The entire wheat harvest this year will be 54.7-million bushels in South Dakota, down from 111.1 million in 2016, and the least since the 44.1-million bushel harvest in 2002.

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.


Burn bans issued throughout Oregon, SW Washington
KPTV-TV Fox 12 Beaverton (Ore.), Aug 02, 2017
Oregon, southwestern Washington

The hot, dry weather led to numerous burn bans in southwestern Washington. Outdoor recreational fires were banned in Camas and Washougal in Clark County. Vancouver also has a ban on recreational fires, campfires and fires in outdoor fireplaces or chimney-type devices.  In Oregon, fire restrictions were in effect in Multnomah and Washington counties and in Salem and Clackamas.

Fire restrictions in place on state FWP properties
Chouteau Acantha (Mont.), Aug 02, 2017

The hot, dry summer has led to fire restrictions on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks properties in most eastern Montana counties.

Governor declares emergency as Lodgepole Complex fire grows to 250,000 acres
Billings Gazette (Mont.), Jul 24, 2017

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order declaring a fire emergency as the 250,000-acre Lodgepole Complex fire and other fires scorched more than 300,000 acres since the start of the year.  The declaration allows the mobilization of state resources and the Montana National Guard to fight the fires and access to money from the state’s general fund to address contingencies.

At least 268 rural fires reported this year
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Jul 21, 2017
North Dakota

The excessive number of wildfires in North Dakota – 268 since the start of the year – has state officials concerned about the stress on volunteer fire departments as drought increases the fire risk.  Stipends may be a possibility for rural volunteer firefighters who have to leave their jobs to go fight fires, sometimes multiple fires daily, according to Director of Homeland Security Greg Wilz.  Fire districts have been asked by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services to report the number of local fires to help state officials make more informed decisions about the use of state resources.

California fires are early, unpredictable after winter rain
ABC News, Jul 12, 2017

Years of drought left California with stands of dead trees and brush, as well as stands of thick grass ready to burn, leading to an early fire season that has been very intense.

Plants & Wildlife

Summer drought in North Dakota will impact fall duck hunting
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Aug 11, 2017
North Dakota

North Dakota has 5 percent fewer duck broods compared to summer 2016, due to drought and the continued decline in the amount of grassland habitat and wetlands, according to a survey by the state Game and Fish Department.  NDGFD also estimated that the overall fall duck flight will be down 8 percent.  There was 38 percent less water available to ducks, compared to last summer, with much of the change occurring in small, seasonal wetlands that have gone dry.

ND pronghorn hurt by bad winter and summer drought
Capital Journal (Pierre, S.D.), Jul 27, 2017
North Dakota

Pronghorn numbers were down 14 percent in North Dakota, according to the state Game and Fish Department.  The agency offered 410 licenses for the fall hunt, 44 percent fewer than in 2016. 

"Numbers were a bit disappointing, but not unexpected due to a combination of a tough winter and extreme (summer) drought conditions," said Big Game Management Supervisor Bruce Stillings.

Trouble bruin as bear calls spiking amid dry weather
Aspen Daily News Online (Colo.), Jul 12, 2017
Near Aspen, Colorado

While chokecherries and service berries were not yet sprouting, hungry bears in the Aspen area to the upper Fryingpan River Valley were making do by raiding homes and trash cans in search of something edible, as hot, dry weather limited the bears’ food options.  One trapped yearling was found to weigh just 35 pounds, when it ought to have tipped the scales at about 100 pounds.

Drought helps North America's largest white pelican refuge
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Jun 22, 2017
North Dakota

Dry conditions at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge have allowed water levels to recede, revealing more of the main nesting island, according to Neil Shook, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and refuge manager.  For years, wet weather caused the lake level to increase, submerging about half, or 12 acres, of the main island, but the recent dryness has allowed the birds more room.

California tortoises died trying to reproduce during drought
The Sacramento Bee, May 17, 2017
Southern California

Numerous female desert tortoises have died in Southern California, and it seems that the creatures died trying to reproduce amid the recent drought.  The tortoises likely used up their water and energy to lay eggs in the Joshua Tree National Park.  Fewer males have died than females.  From the state of deterioration of the carcasses and chalkiness of the bones, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the tortoises died within the last 5 to 10 years, which encompasses years of intense drought.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Wisconsin officials act to help Northern Plains drought
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Aug 17, 2017

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a 30-day “state of emergency” to allow the transportation of loads of forage to the Dakotas and Montana.  The destination states have endured a summer drought that devastated crops and hampered pasture growth, leading farmers to sell livestock.  By easing some of Wisconsin’s commercial driving restrictions and fees, individuals can more easily get hay and other forage to where it is urgently needed.

North Dakota Governor Asks for New Federal Help Amid Drought
The New York Times, Aug 08, 2017
North Dakota

Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota has requested a presidential disaster declaration, noting that his state is “the epicenter of drought for the nation.”  The declaration would also make a way for direct federal disaster payments to farmers who may not have much of a crop to harvest or feed for their hungry cattle.

Eastern Montana counties so dry declared disaster
The Prairie Star (Bismarck, N.D.), Aug 02, 2017
Eastern Montana

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Daniels, Garfield, McCone, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Valley, Dawson, Fergus, Petroleum, Phillips, Richland, Rosebud, Fallon and Wibaux counties in Montana as primary natural disaster areas, due to drought losses and damage.

Governor Declares Drought Disaster
My ND Now (Bismarck, N.D.), Jul 27, 2017
North Dakota

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum declared a drought disaster for most of the state to allow additional response and assistance from state and federal agencies.

USDA opens more land for emergency haying and grazing
High Plains Journal (Dodge City, Kan.), Jul 20, 2017
Northern Plains

Another 235,000 acres of sensitive wetlands and buffer strips on Conservation Reserve Program land in and around Montana and the Dakotas became available for emergency grazing and haying. Affected areas include counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states, and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wyoming. Emergency grazing ends Sept. 30, 2017 and emergency haying ends Aug. 31, 2017.

Society & Public Health

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.

Avocados pricier, in shorter supply for Cinco de Mayo
Courier Post (Camden South Jersey), May 04, 2017

Avocado prices were high ahead of Cinco de Mayo, due to increased demand worldwide, bad weather when avocados were blooming, salty soil in California in the wake of drought and the unpredictability of the avocado trees.

Tourism & Recreation

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.

Drought Causing Low Participation in Ag-Related Activities
KVRR TV (Fargo, N.D.), Jul 11, 2017
Fargo, North Dakota

Fewer farmers from the western part of North Dakota made the trip to Fargo to participate in the Red River Valley Fair.  There were fewer entries in the livestock exhibits and different animal shows.

You can now use the outdoor showers at state beaches again
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2017
California Coast
The California Department of Parks and Recreation ended its two-year ban on outdoor shower use at 38 state beaches. Drought and the need for water conservation prompted the ban, which was not popular with beach goers.
Salmon fishing closed this year on southern Oregon Coast
The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.), Apr 16, 2017
Southern Oregon Coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon. The fish have faced significant challenges with drought and other factors in recent years.
Salmon fishing shut down for southern Oregon coast
Outdoor News (Plymouth, Minn.), Apr 14, 2017
Southern Oregon coast
Sport and commercial salmon fishing is prohibited along the southern Oregon coast because the Pacific Fishery and Management Council chose to protect chinook and coho salmon, given the challenges the fish have faced with drought and other factors in recent years.

Water Supply & Quality

City cracking down on homeowner water violations as S.A. drought conditions worsen
My San (Texas), Aug 04, 2017
San Antonio, Texas

The San Antonio Water System announced that citations will be issued for violating the Stage 1 water restrictions.  Previously, warnings were issued to make residents aware of the restrictions, which took effect July 14, when the 10-day average of the Edwards Aquifer fell below 660 feet, triggering the water restrictions.

Pressed by supplier, Fort Pierre asks residents to cut lawn-watering
Capital Journal (Pierre, S.D.), Jul 31, 2017
Fort Pierre, South Dakota

Water customers in Fort Pierre were asked to curb their water use by 200,000 gallons daily, or about one-fifth of typical summer use, because their supplier, West River/ Lyman-Jones Rural Water System, was hard pressed to meet record water demand.  The Murdo-based water provider asked its municipal customers to use less so agricultural users could get enough water for livestock and other needs.

Drought Leaves Groundwater Low Despite Recent Rains
WMFE (Orlando, Fla.), Jul 13, 2017
Central Florida

Groundwater in the St. Johns River Water Management District remained low, despite recent above-normal rainfall that lifted the region out of drought.  Water customers were urged to continue conserving water.

Stage one drought restrictions announced for San Antonio (San Antonio), Jul 13, 2017
San Antonio, Texas

Stage one drought restrictions began in San Antonio on July 14 and allow outdoor watering once weekly, depending on one’s address.  The 10-day average of the Edwards Aquifer fell below 660 feet, triggering the water restrictions.

Water Shortage Threatens 3,000 People On Montana Reservation
Montana Public Radio (Missoula, Mont.), Jul 13, 2017
North central Montana

The Rocky Boy’s reservation, south of Havre, has enough water to last about seven to 10 days.  They plan to drill new wells and truck in water, if needed, to keep people supplied with water.  Their drinking water supply has been chronically low, but drought tipped the balance.


Public calamity decreed in Portugal as wildfires continue to rage out of control, Aug 18, 2017

The government of Portugal issued a state of public calamity with wildfires raging across the country and hot, dry, gusty weather forecast for the weekend.  The country has endured more than 10,000 fires since the start of the year.

Deepening drought hits Ethiopia herders as millions go hungry
Reuters, Aug 17, 2017

As drought intensified in Ethiopia, livestock are dying and driving up the number of districts needing urgent aid by 19 percent.

U.N. decides to spend US$5.9 mln for N. Korean drought victims
Yonhap News Agency (Seoul, South Korea), Aug 15, 2017
North Korea

The United Nations has decided to give $5.9 million to five agencies to help the people of North Korea, according to the Voice of America.  UNICEF will receive $2.8 million and WFP will get $2.5 million to help with health issues, such as preventing disease.

Slovenia expects less wine production this year
Xinhua (China), Aug 14, 2017

Wine production in Slovenia was expected to be lower this year, due to drought, but the quality of the wine is anticipated to be better.

Extreme heat decimating crops in parts of Europe
The Washington Post, Aug 10, 2017
Central, southeastern Europe

Heat and drought in central and southeastern Europe were hampering crop production, aiding wildfires and driving up demand for water and electricity.  An estimated 60 percent of Serbia’s corn crop has been destroyed.


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.

Vinegar: A cheap and simple way to help plants fight drought
Phys.Org, Jun 26, 2017

The external application of vinegar can enhance drought tolerance in maize, rice and wheat.


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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