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
Most of NM experiencing moderate drought conditions
Las Cruces Sun-News (N.M.), Aug 04, 2016
High July temperatures and below normal rainfall left New Mexico dealing with moderate drought. This state, like California, was disappointed by the recent El Niño which did not bring a wet winter as had been optimistically forecast.
Weather watchers express concern over ‘flash drought’
Seguin Gazette (Texas), Jul 15, 2016
Texas weather forecasters fear that a flash drought is developing in the central part of the state because precipitation has fallen to 25 percent of normal for the past 30 days.
Smaller cranberry harvest forecast in Massachusetts
MassLive.com (Springfield, Mass.), Aug 24, 2016
Massachusetts cranberry growers were told by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistical Services to expect a 5 percent drop, compared to production in 2015. Drought has been growers’ greatest concern, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, noting that having enough water is “critical to ample fruit sizing.”
Many growers also flood cranberry bogs for harvest, but with extreme drought in 16.8 percent of the state, water could be a limiting factor come harvest time.
Hot, Dry Weather Hampers Michigan Crop Development
USAgNet (Marshfield, Wis.), Aug 16, 2016
Hot, dry weather hindered crop development in Michigan where much of the corn crop displayed moisture stress, despite recent scattered showers that likely arrived too late to help the crop during pollination. Many farmers reported that hay grew little after the first cutting, due to the lack of rain.
Drought costs California farms $600 million, but impact eases
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Aug 15, 2016
Drought has cost California farmers an estimated $603 million in 2016, according to a study from the University of California at Davis. Winter precipitation lessened the impacts felt from drought in previous years, but parts of the state, such as the San Joaquin Valley, still desperately need rainfall. Farmers fallowed 78,780 acres in 2016 for lack of water, compared to 500,000 unplanted acres in 2015, costing farmers $247 million in crop revenue and shorting the rural economy about 1,815 jobs. Farmers also spent an extra $303 million to pump groundwater to replace water that state and federal water projects could not provide.
No Rain Increases Stress on Indiana Crops
USAgNet.com / Indiana Ag Connection (Marshfield, Wis.), Aug 09, 2016
Hay and pasture growth slowed significantly during the past week. Many growers reported needing substantial rainfall to revive the fields for an additional cutting of hay. Livestock were stressed from heat and poor pasture conditions, and some pastures were comprised of more weeds than grass.
Drought conditions taking a toll on Michigan's crops
Corn & Soybean Digest (Minneapolis, Minn.), Aug 12, 2016
Drought stress became apparent in Minnesota’s crops after the past two weeks of hot, dry weather revealed that soil moisture was exhausted since little rain fell after crops were planted. Among late planted corn, yield losses of 40 to 60 percent may occur with even larger losses if significant rain does not fall this week.
Business & Industry
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.
Summer drought taking toll on lawn care companies
RochesterFirst.com (New York), Aug 01, 2016
Rochester, New York
A Rochester lawn care business owner said he’s losing $2,500 to $3,000 weekly because grass was dormant and did not need to be mowed.
Barge traffic makes a resurgence on the Missouri River
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 30, 2016
Drought was among a number of factors leading shippers to abandon the Missouri River as a transportation corridor as public ports from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Louis disappeared during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Increasingly, grain, scrap metal, fertilizer and other commodities were again being moved by barge.
California craft beer brewers balance drafts and drought
Redding Record Searchlight (Calif.), Oct 11, 2015
As California communities strive to meet their water conservation goals, those communities also ask businesses, including craft beer brewers, to slash water use. While larger breweries might have the capital to increase water use efficiency, smaller ones in many cases do not.
Losing Water, California Tries to Stay Atop Economic Wave
The New York Times, Aug 19, 2015
Continued economic growth requires building more homes, creating new jobs and drawing in more people, but it is not clear that water supplies will be able to meet demand. Some see drought as being cyclical, while other view it as the new normal, leading to conflicting perspectives on new development.
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.
In Parched California, a Farmer’s Market Is Emerging for Power
The Washington Post with Bloomberg, Sep 03, 2015
California farmers were pumping more water for crop irrigation amid a fourth year of drought and were using hundreds of millions of dollars more electricity than normal to power the pumps. In the Central Valley, farmers may use groundwater to meet more than 60 percent of their irrigation needs in 2015, one-third more than a normal year, At that rate, electric bills would rise 77 percent, or $600 million, compared to a year with normal precipitation.
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.
In dry, windy West, crews target flames in several states
Associated Press, Aug 22, 2016
Many wildfires were burning in western states as dry, windy conditions made it difficult to bring the fires under control. Firefighters in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah were creating fire lines and defending property as residents faced mandatory evacuations and hoped for the best.
More than 2 dozen large wildfires burn in Western states
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Mont.), Aug 03, 2016
Twenty-seven large wildfires were burning in the West as hot, dry windy weather makes the blazes difficult to control. States with large wildfires included California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Burning bans could impact area fireworks
Lansing State Journal (Mich.), Jun 27, 2016
Dozens of burning bans were in effect around Lansing, Michigan as dry weather increased the fire danger at a time of year when the public often lights fireworks. Burning bans were in effect in Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Leslie and Dansville, in addition to many other townships in Ingham County.
The Delta Township Fire Department issued a burning ban for all of Delta Township in Eaton County and Eagle and Watertown Townships in Clinton County. DeWitt Township fire officials also banned fireworks use, according to the township's Facebook page. Burning bans were also in place in the Grand Ledge and Portland areas.
Officials confirm 2 deaths in out-of-control fire in Kern County
Los Angeles Times, Jun 24, 2016
Near Lake Isabella in southern California
A wind-driven wildfire claimed more than 19,000 acres and at least 80 homes and another 20 structures near Lake Isabella, east of Bakersfield. The blaze continued to threaten 1,500 homes and displayed erratic behavior. Residents were evacuated from nearby communities.
Plants & Wildlife
Drought means bolder bears, stressed fish
The Recorder (Greenfield, Mass.), Aug 21, 2016
New England wildlife was adapting to the hot, dry summer, which was leading people to make a few changes, too. Stream levels were below normal, allowing the water to warm more than usual, increasing stress for fish because warmer water carries less oxygen. In Maine and New Hampshire, anglers were urged to fish earlier or later in the day to avoid stressing fish further.
Mosquito populations were larger than normal, which may seem counter intuitive during a drought. Low rivers and ponds offer more shallow areas that could aid mosquito reproduction.
New England bears, snakes and ants were venturing further to find food and water and were turning up in unexpected places. New Hampshire bears have been seen foraging at campgrounds and in neighborhood trash cans because berry bushes produced fewer berries during drought.
Tree mortality at all time high in Calaveras
The Union Democrat (Sonora, Calif.), Aug 09, 2016
Calaveras County, California
Trees in Calaveras County were dying at a faster rate than other Sierra communities because drought has weakened the trees and the Butte fire drew many bark beetles to the region. More than 650,000 trees—mostly ponderosa, lodgepole, sugar and other types of pine trees—were killed by the beetles.
Feds: Drought kills 66 million trees in California's Sierra
San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate.com), Jun 22, 2016
California's Sierra Nevada
Roughly 66 million trees died since 2010 in a six-county region of California’s central and southern Sierra Nevada most severely affected by the drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warm temperatures, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The tree mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties rose by 65 percent since the last figures were announced in October 2015, which documented 40 million dead trees. The sheer number of dead trees could fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people’s lives, said officials.
Tree die-off in local forests caused by past drought years
Medford Mail Tribune (Oregon), Jun 06, 2016
Three years of drought and insects have killed numerous trees in Southern Oregon forests. Douglas firs were the most common victim, but even more drought-resistant Ponderosa pines were succumbing to the dryness. From the Applegate Valley north into the Willamette Valley, the orange hue of dead conifers marks the landscape, with the numbers of dead trees eclipsing that of the mid-1990s and the early 2000s when years of less intense drought changed the countryside. An aerial mapping survey will be conducted by the Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry in July, as has been done annually since the late 1940s, to determine the scale of the die-off.
Relief, Response, & Restrictions
Nine counties now under severe drought status
Great Falls Tribune (Mont.), Aug 25, 2016
Eleven Montana counties were in a drought alert and another nine were in a severe drought status. The counties in a drought alert, indicating that the governor’s Drought Advisory Committee urged local officials to convene local drought committees, were Big Horn, Broadwater, Carter, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Mineral, Park, Pondera, Sanders and Silver Bow. Counties in a severe drought status, meaning that local officials should have begun local drought planning efforts or should reconvene the local drought committee, included Carbon, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Powell, Ravalli, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Teton and Yellowstone.
Drought declared in additional South Carolina counties
Moultrie News (S.C.), Aug 18, 2016
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee met on Aug. 17 and upgraded the drought status for 17 counties. The Upstate has received some moisture, while the Pee Dee region has begun to dry out a bit. Many of the impacts being felt were agricultural.
Governor Baker Elevates State’s Response to Widespread Drought
Mass.gov, Aug 18, 2016
Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts urged “the public to administer best water conservation practices for the foreseeable future.” The governor’s administration offered tips for water conservation indoors and outdoors and recommendations on fire safety and prepared to provide large volumes of bottled water in case it should be needed.
Governor Raimondo Issuing Statewide Drought Advisory
Rhode Island Public Radio, Aug 18, 2016
Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island issued a drought advisory, the lowest of four drought designations, for the state. The goal was to raise awareness about the lack of rain and to promote water conservation.
Massachusetts drought conditions 'unprecedented'
Berkshire Eagle (Mass.), Aug 11, 2016
The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force met on Aug. 11 and recommended that all of the state be included in the drought declaration and that the drought watch for Central and Northeast Massachusetts be upgraded to a drought warning.
Society & Public Health
Upside to drought: Fewer deer ticks and fewer cases of Lyme disease
Portland Press Herald (Maine), Aug 19, 2016
Drought in the Northeast has reduced the number of deer ticks, the insects that transmit Lyme disease. The number of Lyme disease cases was lower than the five-year average for the first six months of the year, said the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Two other tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, have climbed to record highs in 2016, according to the Maine CDC. It was unclear why the rates of those diseases were high while the population of deer ticks was low.
13 Montana Counties Under Drought Alert
Flathead Beacon (Mont.), Jul 19, 2016
Nine counties in southern and northwestern Montana were added to the list of counties under drought alerts. The most recent additions were Carter, Carbon, Yellowstone, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Powell, Ravalli, Missoula and Sanders. Drought alerts took effect for Glacier, Pondera, Teton and northern Lewis and Clark counties in June.
Dry weather bringing people, bears together in New England
Central CT Communications, Jul 03, 2016
The dry weather in Connecticut diminished the berry crop, driving black bears to bird feeders, garbage cans and backyards grills in search of food. People need to be aware of their surroundings. The Maine Warden Service had already received more than 200 bear complaints as of mid-June, compared to last year when they received about 400 complaints for the entire year.
Rescued elephant delivers calf at Dallas Zoo
CBS News, May 24, 2016
An elephant evacuated from Swaziland in southern Africa birthed a 175-pound male calf. His weight was on the low side because his mother could not find enough food while in Swaziland.
Tourism & Recreation
Farmington River and tributaries closed to fishing due to drought, heat
The Day (New London, Conn.), Aug 19, 2016
Parts of the West Branch Farmington River and the Farmington River were closed to fishing because drought, heat, low flows and warm water temperatures have stressed the fish. Some fish kills have already occurred, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Maine wildlife agency raises concerns as drought stresses trout, salmon
Portland Press Herald (Maine), Aug 12, 2016
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recommended that fishermen try to reduce stress on fish by fishing earlier or later in the day when temperatures are lower, and catch and release fish quickly by using barbless hooks to expedite the release.
GFP Commission votes to release 50 more elk hunting licenses due to drought
Capital Journal (Pierre, S.D.), Aug 07, 2016
South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department will offer an additional 50 cow elk hunting licenses this year as part of a drought contingency program in the state’s elk management plan. Five additional licenses will be issued for each of 10 northern Black Hills antlerless elk hunting units where the range conditions were deteriorating rapidly.
Water Supply & Quality
Massachusetts town reducing water usage by 300,000 gallons per day
WWLP-22News (Chicopee, Mass.), Aug 24, 2016
Scituate’s reservoir held less than 25 percent of capacity and wells for the town were being drawn at 20 percent over normal capacity. A full water ban was implemented weeks ago and officials were working out how many days’ worth of water remained.
In Stonington, drought lowers standpipe, consumers make it worse
Island Ad-Vantages (Stonington, Maine), Aug 18, 2016
Excessive water use lowered the water level in Stonington’s standpipe by seven feet, prompting the water company to ask customers to conserve and adopt stricter conservation measures. Water use dropped, averting the need to truck in water from a nearby community.
California water districts: We can handle three more years of drought
The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), Aug 16, 2016
Roughly 85 percent of California’s 411 urban water districts told the State Water Resources Control Board that they had at least a three-year water supply even if the drought continued. Districts maintaining that their water supplies were sufficient were not required to adopt state-mandated water restrictions, while districts without enough water set conservation goals that would make up the anticipated shortfall should drought continue another three years. Most of the water districts that acknowledged inadequate supplies were located in the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and the Los Angeles area. State officials did not audit stress test results, but depended on the water districts to offer honest assessments of their water supplies.
Close call: Feds see 2018 shortage in Lake Mead water supply
Elko Daily Free Press (Nev.), Aug 16, 2016
Lake Mead in Lower Colorado River Basin
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projected that Lake Mead would just barely have enough water to avoid triggering cuts in water deliveries for 2017, meaning that Nevada and Arizona will have adequate water supplies in 2017. The water level was just 4 feet above the 1,075-foot elevation action point. But it does not appear that Lake Mead will have enough for 2018, when Nevada and Arizona may see their first cuts in water supply from the Colorado River.
Parched French, Romanian maize belts to curb EU harvest
Successful Farming (Des Moines, Iowa), Aug 19, 2016
Dry summer weather in France, Romania and Hungary has limited yields in those countries, crop conditions were better elsewhere in Europe. Strategie Grains cut its 2016 forecast last week by 1.1 million tons to 60.6 million tons to figure in crop stress in France, Romania and Bulgaria.
Worst fires in almost two decades ravage hills around Marseille
Reuters, Aug 11, 2016
Forest fires burned along France’s Mediterranean coast and near Marseilles, forcing the evacuations of thousands of people.
"The drought of the last few months and the strong mistral winds worked like a powder keg," Richard Mallie, head of the firefighting service said on France Bleu Provence radio. "The fires spread at phenomenal speed, 2,500 meters an hour."
South Africa’s Drought Worsened by Normal Dry Winter Weather
Bloomberg, Aug 01, 2016
South Africa had its driest year since record keeping began in 1904, and typical dry winter weather was not improving the situation. Livestock were in reasonable to poor condition and grazing was in poor condition in most areas.
U.N. warns of 'race against time' for 23 million drought-stricken African farmers
Reuters, Jul 28, 2016
Farmers in southern Africa need immediate assistance to prepare for the next planting season which begins in a few weeks, said the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Seeds, fertilizer and tools are needed to produce a good harvest in March 2017 and reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance.
Plants remember stress to help protect themselves
Phys.org, Jun 01, 2016
Research from the University of Warwick in the U.K. revealed that plants have evolved ways to remember previous exposures to stress, such as high salinity conditions, which can help subsequent progenies withstand the same stress in future.
US absorbed carbon dioxide despite drought
Phys.Org (Douglas, Isle Of Man, United Kingdom), Apr 25, 2016
The 2012 drought did not turn the U.S. into a net carbon source, as occurred during Europe’s hot summer in 2003, but the country continued to be a carbon sink. As it turns out, the warm spring prompted vegetation to begin growing earlier, thus absorbing more carbon.
Researchers Unveil New Drought-Fighting GMO For Long-Suffering Crops
Growing Alabama, Mar 30, 2016
Scientists at Purdue are focusing on a gene that causes the plant to have rapid leaf pore closure, a reduced rate of water loss due to evaporation, alleviated cell membrane damage and improved photosynthesis that results in an improved reaction to drought conditions.
Drought Headlines Archive
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.
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.