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
Report: Statewide drought ends
Odessa American (Texas), May 11, 2015
The Texas Water Development Board announced that the state was no longer in drought as gauged by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. Texas has endured drought since 2011.
California snowpack survey canceled: 'Drought is severe'
Los Angeles Times, May 01, 2015
Surveyors found no snow at Phillips Point on April 1, making a May 1 trip to the location pointless, given the dearth of productive storms in the past month. The last snowless April 1 survey occurred in 1941.
Intensifying Calif. drought sets off alarms
USA Today, Mar 18, 2015
Five years of drought and heat have cost the Western U.S. nearly $60 billion since 2010, stated a meteorologist with Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm. In California alone, losses amount to roughly $5 billion.
Op-Ed California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?
Los Angeles Times, Mar 13, 2015
This op-ed piece by Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, has caused quite a stir. He asserts that California has one year of water remaining in its reservoirs and that groundwater is being extracted at an unsustainable rate. The state has no contingency plan.
More fallowing expected as rice planting gets underway
Chico Enterprise Record (Calif.), Apr 29, 2015
Sacramento Valley, California
The California Rice Commission anticipated more idled rice fields in 2015, due to reduced water allocations in the Sacramento Valley. In 2014, rice growers planted 23 percent less rice acreage than the previous year, reported the commission.
Rice growers along the Sacramento River with senior water rights can expect 75 percent of their full allotment. Irrigators diverting from the Feather River will get 50 percent of their contracted amount. On the east side of the valley, growers will get 40 to 70 percent of their allotments, while farmers who buy water from the Central Valley Project will get no water for the second year in a row.
Ranchers from drought states turn to Montana for replacement cattle
Helena Independent Record (Mont.), Apr 26, 2015
Cattle buyers from as far away as Texas and Tennessee have crowded into Montana auction arenas, seeking to purchase replacement heifers and rebuild their herds.
Since 2012, the cattle herd declined by 4.3 million head as drought forced ranchers to reduce herd size.
SW Idaho Farmers Juggle Thin Water Allotments
AgWeb (Mexico, Mo.), Apr 25, 2015
Growers in the Boise Project were caught off guard this year when their irrigation allotment was set early and was considerably lower than in 2014. Last year, they were able to irrigate through June 17 before water use began counting against their water allotment of 2.25 acre-feet. The total allotment this year is 1.65 acre-feet, leaving farmers without enough water to grow already planted crops and no time to adjust cropping plans.
Almond board to drought-weary Californians: We're not wasting water
Los Angeles Times, Apr 16, 2015
California’s almond industry has been under attack by critics who accuse almond growers of using far too much water amid drought to grow the nuts. Leaders with the Almond Board of California were fighting back with statistics that demonstrate far less water is needed to grow the crop than has been claimed.
The associate director of Agricultural Affairs for the almond board stated that many foods require more water than almonds on a per-ounce basis. Water experts also defend the crop.
Calif. drought challenges state's businesses
USA Today, Apr 04, 2015
Farmers are shifting their cropping plans to produce less broccoli, carrots and tomatoes, and grow more fruit and nut trees, which require less water. Cotton used to cover 1.5 million acres, but now covers relatively little acreage. Roughly one million acres are presently fallowed, according to the University of California-Davis.
The projected loss to the state in 2015 could be $3 billion, up from $2 billion in 2014, said Richard Howitt, an agriculture and resource economics expert at the University of California-Davis. He estimated that an additional 20,000 jobs in agriculture and food production could be lost.
Business & Industry
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 Golf Courses Tee Up Water-Saving Measures
Associated Press, May 13, 2015
California’s golf courses were tearing out turf and replacing it with drought-tolerant landscaping to cut down drastically on water use and the cost of irrigation and maintain an attractive appearance. The landscaping change is being carried out in areas where play will not be affected.
Turf replacement rebate programs have golf courses snapping up the assistance with landscaping costs because they can be reimbursed $2 to $3 for each square foot of turf removed.
Analyst: California drought not a significant hit to economy
Capital Press (Salem, Ore.), Apr 15, 2015
California’s economy and budget are not expected to be significantly harmed by the persistent drought, said a Legislative Analyst’s Office report. Poor agricultural production and residential water use do not pull down the state economy much, but a longer-term drought could deliver a blow to the state economy if home construction slows or food prices climb.
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.
Brush fires rage in Concord and Canterbury, scorching dozens of acres across region
Concord Monitor (N.H.), May 04, 2015
New Hampshire, Vermont
Many New Hampshire communities statewide were dealing with brush fires fueled by dry conditions. Six or more brush fires sprung up in Vermont, reported the National Weather Service. Concord fire officials met with state officials to review the situation and consider the need for additional resources.
Cal Fire Reports Worst Fire Conditions on Record This Season
KGO 810am (San Francisco), May 05, 2015
Wildfire activity was above normal for the first four months of 2015 with Cal Fire battling 1,100 fires, a sizable increase over the average 650 fires for that time frame. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott stated that conditions this year were the worst on record.
To protect homes, Californians were urged to pull out grass and brush allowed to go dormant around homes.
Fire officials warn Sandoval of difficult summer
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), May 04, 2015
State and federal fire officials alerted Nevada’s Gov. Sandoval that persistent drought, above normal temperatures and dry vegetation could lead to a “perfect storm” in terms of wildfires in the summer.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Forest Service stated, “We have been preparing for and have had dialogue on what is going to look like when Southern California, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington all have simultaneous large fire events. The system is going to be heavily taxed this year.”
Fire officials anticipate "challenging summer"
The Columbian (Wash.), Apr 28, 2015
The Washington Department of Natural Resources began hiring and training firefighters early in preparation for the coming fire season. The low snowpack of just 20 percent of normal indicates that summer will be dry and favorable for wildfire activity.
Fire crews in California increase staffing earlier
SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle), Apr 13, 2015
Along California’s central and southern coasts, fire agencies have upped staffing levels ahead of schedule, due to the exceedingly dry landscape after years of drought. Ventura County Fire, Santa Barbara County Fire and state fire crews in San Luis Obispo County and the San Benito-Monterey area were bringing in firefighters, fire engines, bull dozers, helicopters and air tankers. In the Los Padres National Forest, firefighters and equipment were put into place early.
Plants & Wildlife
California Drought Killed 12 Million Forest Trees Since Last Year
KPBS (San Diego), May 04, 2015
An April aerial survey performed by the U.S. forest Service found that roughly 12 million trees in California’s forestlands died within the last year due to extreme drought.
In Cleveland, San Bernardino, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests, an estimated 2 million dead trees were seen. Across 4.1 million acres in the Southern Sierra Nevada, surveyors spotted approximately 10 million dead trees.
California drought: Delta smelt survey finds a single fish, heightening debate over water supply
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Apr 15, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
The March trawl survey for adult smelt conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found only four females and two males in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The April survey turned up just one fish. Counts of longfin smelt have also fallen to record lows.
Early in April, the State Water Resources Board chose to limit Sierra runoff to the estuary, due to drought, and depriving fish of the cold, fresh water that enhances survival.
Drought prompts truck and release of salmon smolts in Rio Vista
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Mar 26, 2015
Twelve million juvenile Chinook salmon were being trucked from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson to Rio Vista in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because the warm flow of Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River, is too low. The 3-inch long smolts would likely perish before they reached the delta, leaving very few to return as adults in three years to reproduce. Six trucks will take approximately 22 working days to deliver the fish to the delta, with the project to be finished by mid-May. Salmon were also transported to the delta in the spring of 2014.
Fate of Delta smelt sinks as numbers drop
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Mar 17, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
A March survey of Delta smelt found just six fish, the smallest March count ever recorded, according to environmental groups and scientists. Drought and delta water diversion were blamed for the population collapse, which may lead to extinction of the species.
Drought prompts early fish stocking — again
Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), Feb 12, 2015
Low water in the Truckee River prompted the Nevada Department of Wildlife to stock the river with 7,000 rainbow trout earlier than normal while there is still enough water in the river to support the fish. Lake Tahoe remained 2.5 inches below its natural rim, in spite of the recent storms that caused an inflow of roughly 16 billion gallons. The snowpack in the Truckee River basin was less than 50 percent of normal for this time of year.
Fish were also stocked in February last year—the earliest in 20 years—due to drought and low river flows.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
Inslee declares statewide drought emergency
The Seattle Times (Wash.), May 15, 2015
Washington’s Gov. Inslee declared a drought emergency for the entire state, smoothing the way for aid to those coping with water shortages. Record low snowpack and subsequent water shortfalls led agriculture officials to estimate a crop loss of $1.2 billion this year.
California needs to turn down the tap, state OKs historic cuts
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), May 05, 2015
The California State Water Resources Control Board approved a statewide emergency regulation on May 5, demanding an immediate 25 percent cut in overall potable urban water use as ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown on April 1. If these regulations receive approval from the Office of Administrative Law, they will take effect June 1.
The board deemed the emergency regulations necessary after the public’s poor conservation efforts reached 8.6 percent since June 2014 and reached just 3.6 percent in March.
State water board issues revised drought regulations for Californians
Los Angeles Times, Apr 19, 2015
The California State Water Resources Control Board revised its mandatory water conservation goals for some cities as water agencies protested that the original water use goals were unreasonable. The updated mandatory conservation goals ranged from 8 to 36 percent, in comparison with 2013 water use.
The board must approve the regulations before they would take effect in June.
Ore. governor: Drought emergencies in 2 more counties
EastOregonian.com, Apr 21, 2015
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon announced drought emergencies for Baker and Wheeler counties, due to drought, thin snowpack and low water supplies. The governor recently recognized Crook, Harney, Klamath, Lake and Malheur counties as being in drought emergencies also. Jackson and Josephine county officials intend to request relief in the near future, and the Oregon Drought Council expects local governments in the Umatilla Basin to seek drought emergency status.
Society & Public Health
Regional tensions linger in California’s drought
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), May 11, 2015
Tighter water restrictions were forcing Californians to take a look at their water use and cut back wherever possible, but the demand for conservation also reawakened regional tensions throughout the state. While competition between urban, agricultural and environmental interests has been an issue, the disparity in water use between richer and poorer communities has also drawn recent attention.
DROUGHT: Customers thirst for turf-removal rebates
Riverside Press-Enterprise (Calif.), May 07, 2015
Metropolitan Water District will meet and discuss the possible addition of $150 million to its rebate program after handing out $100 million since the turf removal incentive was offered for the two fiscal years ending in 2016. During the last week of April, MWD received requests for more than $34 million in rebates, nearly three times the previous request record.
Drought Frames Economic Divide of Californians
The New York Times, Apr 26, 2015
The disparity between economic status and water use is illustrated by working-class Compton and relatively extravagant Cowan Heights. The conscientious, water-conserving people in Compton sacrifice comfort to save water, while the green, lush lawns of Cowan Heights tell a very different story. Between July and September 2014, daily per capita water use was 572.4 gallons in Cowan Heights, while Compton residents used an average of 63.6 gallons each day. Consequently, Cowan Heights has been ordered to cut its water use 36 percent, and Compton only has to cut back 8 percent.
Court: San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates are illegal, may hinder conservation
The Orange County Register (Calif.), Apr 21, 2015
The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rate system was illegal, sounding a warning for other water districts that use tiered pricing to promote water conservation. A voter-approved law says that government fees must be comparable with service costs.
A key component of the conservation orders put forth by Gov. Brown in early April was for local agencies to implement conservation pricing to discourage water waste. The state’s lawyers are looking into this.
Tourism & Recreation
Part of Sacramento River closed to salmon fishing
Napa Valley Register.com (Calif.), Apr 28, 2015
Sacramento River in California
A 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River was closed to salmon fishing on April 27. The California Fish and Game Commission proposed the closure to guard critical spawning habitat and eliminate stress and hooking deaths of winter-run salmon.
Sierra drought keeping several Lake Tahoe boat ramps closed
U-T San Diego (Calif.), Apr 15, 2015
Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border
Lake Tahoe, having been below its natural rim since October 2014, will have fewer boat ramps open during the 2015 summer. The ramps that are likely to remain closed the entire summer include the popular Sand Harbor ramp, just south of Incline Village; Coon Street on the north shore at Kings Beach, California and on the south shore at El Dorado Beach and Tahoe Vista, California. The summer boating season typically begins May 1.
In store for visitors to Yosemite: a drier, browner park
Los Angeles Times, Mar 29, 2015
Yosemite National Park in California
Due to the lack of snow, visitor bureaus were emphasizing different activities in the park. Majestic Yosemite Falls was not highlighted so much, and instead, activities like hiking, biking and photography were recommended to prospective visitors. Yosemite Falls is expected to run dry in June, two months earlier than usual. The Merced River, which supplies water to Nevada and Vernal falls, is also anticipated to slow to a trickle in June.
Water Supply & Quality
Nevada drought claims Washoe Lake
Nevada Appeal (Carson City, Nev.), May 14, 2015
Near Reno, Nevada
Washoe Lake completely dried up because nearly all of the 11 streams that feed the lake have gone dry, and evaporation also drew down the lake. A small pool of water remained at the main lake’s north end, but was dwindling rapidly. When full, the lake is very shallow with its greatest depth being 12 feet.
San Jose to face mandatory water rationing with monthly allotments
San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), May 11, 2015
San Jose, California
The San Jose Water Company was prepared to impose mandatory water rationing on its 1 million customers in the San Jose area. Each water customer—businesses and residents alike—will be given a month-by-month water allocation, derived from the average water use in 2013 of all water customers and must cut water use by 30 percent.
Yakima Basin water supply outlook worsens again
Yakima Herald (Wash.), May 05, 2015
Yakima River Basin in Washington
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation told Yakima Basin junior irrigation water rights holders that their water allocation had fallen to 47 percent and could drop further to 38 percent in a worst case scenario. In March, the allocation was 73 percent, and in April, was downgraded to 60 percent. Junior water rights holders in the Roza and the Kittias Reclamation districts will take the hardest hit because those districts rely solely on junior water rights.
Drought forces California farms to stop pumping river water
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), May 01, 2015
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
More than 2,700 junior water-rights holders along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Sacramento River were ordered to end diversions for the second year running. Most of those affected are farmers.
Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District offers to sell water to Bay Area
Oroville Mercury Register (Calif.), Apr 28, 2015
East Bay, California
The East Bay Municipal Utility District was considering purchasing up to 21,000 acre-feet from three Northern California suppliers. If the deals worth roughly $25 million move ahead, EBMUD would acquire enough water to serve its 1.3 million customers for one to two months.
Qld suffering worst drought in its history
Capital Bay (Washington, D.C.), May 13, 2015
The big dry is affecting more than 80 percent of Queensland, making this the largest spatial extent of drought in the state’s history.
The Empty River of Life
The New York Times, May 05, 2015
More than 20 years of drought have sapped Tehran’s underground water supplies, which could lead to rationing. The southern part of the country could become uninhabitable if the drought continues, experts say.
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.
Study finds varied fish response to unexpected droughts
Phys.org (Great Britain), Dec 15, 2014
Native fish populations on the Upper Verde River in Arizona decreased during droughts and increased during floods, while non-native populations did not vary much, according to research conducted by Albert Ruhí with Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
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.