Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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

Lubbock approaches record dry period, but area lakes holding on for now
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Texas), Feb 10, 2018
Lubbock, Texas

Through Feb. 10, Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport had gone 94 days without measurable precipitation.  Amarillo, too, has not seen rain since Oct. 13, for a dry spell lasting 121 days and counting.

Oregon’s warm winter and low snowpack makes summer drought likely
Salem Statesman-Journal (Ore.), Feb 08, 2018

Oregon’s winter has been warm and rainy, but not snowy as is needed for subsequent snowmelt to refill reservoirs. The state has gotten 88 percent of normal precipitation, but just 40 percent of normal snowfall, as has been the pattern in recent years.

U.S. drought at worst level in nearly 4 years
USA Today, Feb 02, 2018

Drought is ramping up to encompass 38.4 percent of the continental U.S.  The last time the spatial extent of drought exceeded this was in Many 2014 when 40 percent of the nation was affected.

Drought conditions returning to Texas amid dry winter spell
Austin American Statesman (Texas), Jan 25, 2018

Almost half of Texas is in various levels of drought with an additional 35 percent of the state being abnormally dry.  Three months ago, less than 2 percent of the state was in drought.

Drought builds for 10th consecutive week
The Farmer (Lenexa, Kan.), Jan 18, 2018

Abnormal dryness and drought have been expanding in the U.S. since the Nov. 9, 2017 USDM, when the percentage of the country in D0 – D4 conditions was 32.81 percent.  As of the Jan. 18 release, the percentage was 60.93.


Texas ranchers worried about drought conditions heading into spring
KXAN-TV NBC 36 Austin (Texas), Feb 15, 2018
Central Texas

Dry conditions have ranchers in Texas’ Hill Country reflecting back on 2011, wondering if they will have to sell cattle and preparing for a difficult spring if substantial rain does not fall.

Pray For Rain
KGNC-FM 97.9 (Amarillo, Texas), Feb 13, 2018
Texas Panhandle

Winter wheat and other pasture has deteriorated in Potter County. As the quality of forage diminishes, heifers and calves may not be getting the needed nutrition. Numerous cattle producers have sold cattle early, losing money that they would have received had the livestock weighed more.

Drought and cold temperatures affecting crops
KFDX NBC 3- KJTL FOX 18 - KJBO MyTV 35 (Wichita Falls, Texas), Feb 08, 2018
Wichita Falls, Texas

Late-planted crops near Wichita Falls needed rain badly and have not been able to withstand the dry conditions well because their root systems were not well-developed enough to reach deep and tap into moisture.

Worsening southern Plains drought slows U.S. cattle herd growth
Reuters, Jan 31, 2018

Expanding drought in the Southern Plains played a role in the smallest rise in the nation’s cattle population in three years, according to analysts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The cattle herd on Jan. 1 was up 0.7 percent from 2017 at 94.399 million head as more cattle were taken to commercial feedlots earlier than intended.

Drought conditions causing concerns for farmers, Forestry Department
WSET-TV ABC 13 (Lynchburg, Va.), Jan 25, 2018
Southern Virginia

Fall-planted small greens, such as wheat and barley, did not get enough moisture, leaving them stunted in Pittsylvania County.

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.


A silver lining from California's drought: Water conservation led to reduced energy use and less pollution
Los Angeles Times, Jan 12, 2018

From June 2015 through April 2016, when Californians curbed their water use by 24.5 percent, or 524,000 million gallons of water, they also conserved a lot of electricity at the same time.  By using less water, they conserved 1830 gigawatt hours of electricity—enough to electrify 274,000 average homes for one year.

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.


Governor’s order puts more than half of Oklahoma under burn ban
NewsOK (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Feb 15, 2018

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued an order on Feb. 15, increasing the number of counties in a burn ban from 40 to 52.

“Drought conditions continue to worsen across the state with no measurable rainfall occurring in the western third of Oklahoma for the past 130 days, and central Oklahoma is approaching 40 days without rain,” said the governor. “An expanded burn ban is called for to reduce the risk of preventable wildfires and to protect lives and property.”

State Forestry: New Mexico facing aggressive fire season
KRQE-TV CBS 13 (Albuquerque, N.M.), Feb 08, 2018
New Mexico

New Mexico State Forestry has already begun to train extra firefighters to be prepared when the calls for assistance begin. Members of the fire crews were doing their physical fitness testing and getting their equipment ready.

Parts of the state enter wildfire season earlier than usual
Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas), Jan 31, 2018

Wildfire season began early in western Texas, due to high fuel availability, drought and other environmental conditions.

Governor Mary Fallin issues burn ban for 40 counties in Oklahoma
KFOR-TV NBC 4 Oklahoma City, Jan 30, 2018
Western Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma issued a burn ban for 40 counties in the western part of the state, due to existing fire activity, available fuel and drought.

High fire danger around Flagstaff has Forest Service looking for seasonal firefighters to come earlier
Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Jan 19, 2018

Record and near record dry conditions through Arizona’s fall and winter months have increased the fire danger, prompting local forest managers to consider bringing in fire fighters one month early, according to the Coconino National Forest fire staff officer.

Plants & Wildlife

California salmon lose way after ride downstream in drought
The Sacramento Bee, Dec 26, 2017

Six million fewer fall-run Chinook salmon were produced at the federal Coleman National Fish Hatchery for release into Battle Creek in the spring of 2018, half of the usual production of 12 million fish. Past years of drought, notably 2014 and 2015, led biologists to truck juvenile salmon to the Delta because rivers were warm and shallow rather than cold, roiling rivers of stormwater runoff that protect the fish. Transporting the fish resulted in fewer fish being able to return on their own to the fishery to spawn as returns of spring- and winter-run salmon born during drought were some of the lowest on record.

California losing 2 million trees a month as drought-related plague drags on
San Francisco Chronicle (, Dec 11, 2017

Trees continued to die in the Sierra Nevada more than a year after the end of California’s multiyear drought.  The U.S. Forest Service reported that 27 million trees died since November 2016, bringing the total of dead trees to roughly 129 million on about 8.9 million acres of land since 2010.  The trees were stressed and dehydrated by drought, making them more vulnerable to bark beetle infestations and other ills.

2.4 million trees are dead in Yosemite National Park
San Francisco Chronicle (, Nov 08, 2017
Yosemite National Park, California

The latest fall count found 2.4 million dead trees on about 131,000 acres of Yosemite National Park, said the park spokesman. This is the highest number of dead trees ever recorded in the park and was blamed on persistent drought, warming temperatures, poor forest health and native bark beetles.

Drought may have aided storm that walloped Maine, Northeast
Greenwich Time (Conn.), Nov 01, 2017

Drought, recent rainfall and an unusual storm path in Maine may have played a role in the large numbers of trees that fell during a storm that blasted the Northeast.  The dry weather left the trees’ roots in an unhealthy state, while the ground conditions and leaves still on the trees made them more vulnerable to wind damage.

Scientists say few spring-run salmon in Feather River likely due to heat, drought
Chico Enterprise Record (Calif.), Oct 22, 2017
Northern California

Drought and heat were blamed for the poor return of spring-run salmon to the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, where the low fish count was even worse than predicted.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Governor Ducey says drought requires more wildfire prevention cash
KVOA-TV NBC 4 Tucson (Ariz.), Feb 08, 2018

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona asked the Legislature to increase funding for fire prevention efforts from an annual figure of $1 million to $2 million.  The additional funds would be used to remove brush and other fuels loads since drought has dramatically increased the fire danger.

North Carolina either abnormally dry or in moderate drought (S.C.), Nov 30, 2017
North Carolina

North Carolina’s Drought Management Advisory Council advised that the counties in drought take precautions to limit water use to extend existing water supplies.

Aiken County drought status upgraded to 'incipient'
Aiken Standard (S.C.), Nov 27, 2017
South Carolina

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee recognized 15 counties as entering incipient drought during a Nov. 27 conference call.

Senator calls for more USDA workers to respond to drought
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Oct 20, 2017
Western North Dakota

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supply more workers to western North Dakota, where understaffed Farm Service Agency offices were facing a crushing workload after a summer of exceptional drought.

It’s rained a lot, but there’s a moderate drought in Wake, surrounding counties.
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), Oct 19, 2017
North Carolina

The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council issued a moderate drought advisory for a dozen counties in the northern Piedmont.  The area typically receives 35 to 40 inches of rain by this time, but has only gotten 25 to 30 inches this year.

Society & Public Health

Meat makes a comeback: Prices coming down and U.S. consumption predicted to rise
Yakima Herald (Wash.), Jan 09, 2018

Drought and high feed costs have kept meat prices high in recent years, but the meat supply is expanding, and with that, meat prices were coming down.

North Dakota drought delays reclamation of Cold War site
The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), Nov 15, 2017
North Dakota

Drought and an inability to get grass growing at the site of a Cold War-era base in Divide County has prevented the full reclamation of the Fortuna Air Force Station. Grass must be seeded on an inert waste disposal pit, but a contractor’s seeding in July did not survive. County workers have since reseeded the area.

The base in northwestern Divide County was activated in 1952 as a radar facility during the Cold War. Before partial deactivation in 1979, Fortuna AFS had long-range and height-finder radar, data and backup systems. The site was decommissioned and abandoned in 1984.

More ink, less water: News coverage of the drought prompted Californians to conserve, study suggests
Los Angeles Times, Oct 27, 2017

The more news coverage of California’s drought, the more Californians conserved, according to research by Stanford University.

Here’s California’s plan to save motorists from toppling trees at Tahoe
The Sacramento Bee, Aug 22, 2017
Lake Tahoe area, California

California crews plan to cut down dead and drought-weakened trees along highways in the Tahoe Basin starting in September as part of the statewide movement to remove dangerous trees along highways.  Efforts will be focused on Highway 89, where a tree fell and killed a woman in her car, and other area highways.  Caltrans has already taken out more than 100,000 dead trees in the Golden State, mostly on state property along highways as part of a $115 million safety campaign.  Removing dangerous trees on private property will be the next step.  Caltrans identified Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Placer, Tulare and Tuolumne counties as areas of particularly high risk for falling trees.

Hold the Bagel! Higher Costs Make 2018 a Great Time to Cut Carbs
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Jul 26, 2017

Benchmark wheat futures in Chicago remained 18 percent higher for the year, due to drought, and will likely mean costlier bagels and pizza crusts in 2018.  In Minneapolis, the price for spring wheat was up 37 percent for the year. 

Tourism & Recreation

Dry, hot California winter closes ski resorts, stalls wildflower blooms and revives drought fears
Los Angeles Times, Feb 13, 2018

Royal Gorge, Tahoe Donner, TahoeXC and other Nordic trails were closed for skiing, as the poor snowpack left recreationists looking to fat tire biking rather than skiing. The statewide snowpack for this time of year averaged 21 percent.

Yosemite's 'firefall' unlikely appear due to drought
KFSN-TV ABC 30 Fresno/Visalia (Calif.), Feb 12, 2018
Yosemite National Park in California

Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall may not have the firefall look as it often does in the latter part of February.  The lack of snow meant that there was no water flowing to produce the waterfall.

Ruidoso business owners struggle to stay afloat: 'We haven't had a winter'
KVIA-TV (El Paso, Texas), Feb 08, 2018
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Ski Apache has recorded just 24 inches of snow more than halfway through the ski season, which is far below the 300 inches received during the 2010 season, according to the director of operations for the resort. Despite being able to make artificial snow, the ski area only has six of 54 lanes open for use.

Lack of snow closes Lake County ski season before it starts
Klamath Falls Herald and News (Ore.), Feb 09, 2018
Southern Oregon

Operators of Warner Canyon Ski Area opted to close for the entire winter season, given that they have been unable to open thus far for lack of snow.  The ski area typically opens the last week of December and remains open as long as the snow lasts. 

The annual Chemult Sled Dog races were also canceled in January, and Mt. Ashland closed until further notice, pending additional snowfall.

Drought hurting ski areas in New Mexico
KOB 4 (Albuquerque, N.M.), Jan 31, 2018
New Mexico

Ski Santa Fe has about 15 to 20 percent of its normal snow for late January, which has not drawn the usual number of skiers.  Skier visits were down about 30 percent so far during the season, according to Ski New Mexico Executive Director George Brooks.  Some resorts were making snow, but the price tag for doing so for 24 hours can range from $3,500 to $10,000.

Water Supply & Quality

Water use climbs in California enclaves as drought returns
The Sacramento Bee, Feb 15, 2018

Water use in Southern California has been rising as drought expands, pushing state and regional water managers to consider what bans and conservation programs should become permanent.  Water use has also been increasing since Gov. Jerry Brown ended the state’s drought emergency status one year ago.

California’s drought restrictions on wasteful water habits could be coming back — this time they’ll be permanent
The Orange County Register (Calif.), Feb 12, 2018

The California State Water Resources Control Board was considering regulations that would make seven particular wasteful water practices a crime, including activities such as over watering lawns and irrigating street medians.  The decision on the regulations is anticipated to occur at a Feb. 20 meeting.

Water Forecast Is Bleak for Major Reservoir in Southwest US
The New York Times, Feb 07, 2018
Lake Powell on Utah/Arizona border

Lake Powell is expected to receive just 47 percent of its normal inflow, due to low snowpack in parts of the Colorado River Basin.  There is only a 10 percent chance of that enough snow will fall to bring the inflow up to average.

Don’t expect much more rain in California this season, expert says, based on 100 years of data
The Riverside Press-Enterprise (Calif.), Feb 06, 2018

An analysis of more than 100 years of California weather data indicated that a March Miracle is highly unlikely to bolster the state’s snowpack and put it back into the normal range, according to Jan Null with the Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga.

Drought conditions begin to show in Springfield
Springfield State Journal-Register (Ill.), Feb 02, 2018
Springfield, Illinois

As water supplies dwindled, farmers in Sangamon County lined up at bulk water stations in Mechanicsburg to purchase water for their livestock, so many of them needed water.


Beijing sees longest dry spell in 47 yrs
China Daily, Feb 14, 2018

Beijing has gone 115 straight days without “effective precipitation” for its longest stretch of dry weather in 47 years.

South Africa declares drought a national disaster
Reuters, Feb 13, 2018
South Africa

Drought gripping southern and western parts of South Africa prompted the government to declare a national disaster.  Day Zero for Cape Town has also been moved from May 11 to June 4.

Fonterra's New Zealand Milk Collection in December Hit by Dry Weather
Dairy Herd Management, Feb 08, 2018
New Zealand

Milk collections in New Zealand in December fell 6 percent, due to dry weather.

Rising Hummus Prices? Blame a Drought Half a World Away
The New York Times, Feb 08, 2018

Drought in India has driven up hummus prices in Britain.  Poor harvests have forced India to purchase chickpeas from elsewhere to have enough for domestic consumption, which has put pressure on chickpea supplies worldwide and increased prices.

Drought Forces Ghana To Ration Water Supply
Global Information Network, Feb 07, 2018

Due to severely dry winter winds and rivers running dry, water deliveries in Ghana will be rationed until rains begin in coming months.  The water supplies in most cities and towns were intermittent.


Scientists seek to unlock mysteries of Sierra snow droughts
Reno Gazette Journal (Nev.), Jan 17, 2018
Sierra Nevada, California

Snow drought come in two main kinds: dry snow droughts and warm snow droughts, found climate scientists Ben Hatchett and Dan McEvoy with the Desert Research Institute in Reno.

Global warming could leave 25 percent of the planet in permanent drought
UPI, Jan 02, 2018

About one-quarter of the Earth could remain in permanent drought if efforts to curb climate change miss the targets set by the Paris agreement.

Study: Loss of Water in Drought Caused Sierra Nevada to Rise
U.S. News & World Report, Dec 13, 2017
California’s Sierra Nevada

The loss of water from rocks during drought in California’s Sierra Nevada allowed the land to rise nearly an inch in elevation between October 2011 and October 2015, according to a study by National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  In the following two years of improved snow and rainfall, the rocks recovered just half of the water they lost during drought.  The height of the mountains also fell by about half an inch.

Changes in water consumption linked to heavy news media coverage of extreme climatic events
Science Advances, Oct 25, 2017

Greater media coverage of drought in California resulted in greater water conservation in the San Francisco Bay area.

NAU Study: Fungi Helps Pinyon Pines Survive Drought
KNAU (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Oct 18, 2017

Certain species of fungi helped trees pull water and nutrients from the soil, allowing the trees to be more drought-resistant.


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

The National Drought Mitigation Center | University of Nebraska-Lincoln
3310 Holdrege Street | P.O. Box 830988 | Lincoln, NE 68583–0988
phone: (402) 472–6707 | fax: (402) 472–2946 | Contact Us | Web Policy

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Copyright 2018 National Drought Mitigation Center