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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.

Agriculture


Ranchers finding new ways to deal with drought, COVID-19

Eastern Arizona Courier (Safford), 11-4-2020

Affected Area: Arizona

Poor grazing in eastern Arizona, due to drought, led more ranchers to take their cattle to feedlots to fatten them before selling.


Clarks Christmas Tree Farm in Tiverton will skip this holiday season

Metro West Daily News (Framingham, Mass.), 11-2-2020

Affected Area: Rhode Island

Drought stress and tree damage from the summer led a Tiverton Christmas tree grower to cancel tree sales for the 2020 Christmas season.  Trees have yellow needles, which would worsen after cutting.  Some of the younger trees were a total loss.  With normal rainfall, the larger trees should recover.


N'West Iowa wraps up harvest weeks early

NWestIowal.com (Sheldon, Iowa), 10-29-2020

Affected Area: Iowa

Despite the summer drought, northwest Iowa farmers saw yields comparable to the 10-year average as soil moisture reserves from last year’s rainfall sustained the crops.  Dry weather also allowed harvests to be completed about three weeks early.


Potato farmers expecting lower revenue for smaller crop amid drought and pandemic

Bangor Daily News (Maine), 10-29-2020

Affected Area: Maine

The Aroostook County potato crop is down about 20 percent, due to drought.  One Presque Isle grower saw a drop in yield of about 30 percent.


Ag stats: Colorado crop progress and condition report – week ending October 25, 2020

Kiowa County Press (Eads, Colo.), 10-28-2020

Affected Area: Colorado

The harvest went quickly in northeast and east central Colorado where stands were poor or crops failed.  Winter wheat emergence was uneven in areas, due to high winds and persistent dry conditions.  Crop producers were concerned about extreme drought and were actively making alternate fall and spring cropping plans.  Rangeland and feed availability remained primary concerns for livestock producers.


Business & Industry


Some Areas Along the Mississippi River Need a Tall Drink of Water

DTN The Progressive Farmer (Burnsville, Minn.), 10-5-2020

Affected Area: Mississippi River

The level of the Mississippi River has been falling during the past few months.  South of St. Louis, barge drafts of 12 feet were the norm, but Ceres Barge Line opted to cut their drafts to 10 feet, 6 inches as of Oct. 1.  The change will cost shippers more money as it will require more barges to transport the same amount of grain downriver.


Company drills deeper wells as drought continues in NH

WMUR-TV ABC 9 Manchester (N.H.), 9-14-2020

Affected Area: New Hampshire

As New Hampshire’s drought persisted, more homeowners were finding that their wells had run dry.  One well drilling company had more than 100 customers on a waiting list, needing a bedrock well drilled to restore the water supply for homes.  Such wells often cost $10,000 to $12,000.


Dry weather stokes Athens recreation center progress

ENewsCourier.com (Athens, Ala.), 10-12-2019

Affected Area: Athens, Alabama

The absence of rain has allowed the construction of the new Athens Recreation Center to continue slightly ahead of schedule without rain delays.  The facility was originally intended to open in May 2020, but should be ready in April 2020.


Drought-Resistant Terms Doubled in California, Arizona Listing Descriptions

Yahoo! Finance, 8-21-2019

Affected Area: U.S.

Despite the record wet weather the U.S. has seen in the past twelve months, mentions of drought-resistant features in home listings remained high in California and Arizona.  The term “xeriscape” is often used in New Mexico and Colorado, while drought mentions in Georgia frequently relate to lakefront homeowners’ dock usability amid drought.


Banking on Drought: Private Companies See Profits in Southwest Water Shortages

Phoenix New Times, 2-28-2019

Affected Area: Arizona

Arizona companies with water stand to make a nice profit as water supplies increase in value, given the anticipated reduction in water from the Colorado River. 


Energy


Less water for Sakakawea

Minot Daily News (N.D.), 10-7-2020

Affected Area: North Dakota

As precipitation remained well below normal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers again lowered the projected Feb. 28, 2021 water level for Lake Sakakawea, for the fourth consecutive month of declining water level projections.  While projections have been lower recently, the latest projection of 30.2 million acre-feet of water remains 117 percent of the 25.8 maf of average for the upper Missouri River Basin. 

Six mainstem power plants generated 875 million kilowatts of electricity in September, down from the average of 905 million kWh.


Decline in hydropower hampered by drought will impact utility costs

The San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), 8-10-2020

Affected Area: California

The 2012-16 drought in California reduced water supplies, which led to a decrease in hydropower production.  The loss in electricity generation cost PG&E and other California utilities roughly $5.5 billion, according to a study done by researchers at North Carolina State University.  Much of the shortfall in hydropower production was made up by natural gas, a more expensive form of energy production.  The lost hydropower production cost utilities $1.5 billion and the higher demand for electricity amounted to nearly $4 billion.


Southeast Alaska hydro lakes nearing spill level

KFSK (Petersburg, Alaska), 7-23-2020

Affected Area: Alaska

Southeast Alaska’s wet summer has nearly refilled hydroelectric reservoirs that were depleted by drought beginning in 2017.  Since then, the communities of Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan have relied on diesel power while hydropower was not available.  Diesel power is more expensive, negatively impacting revenue for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency.  Swan Lake near Ketchikan and Tyee Lake near Wrangell may be able to spill later this week if the rain continues.


Southern half of New Hampshire in moderate drought

Seacoast Online (Portsmouth, N.H.), 6-25-2020

Affected Area: New Hampshire

As lake levels fall in New Hampshire, dam releases were reduced to a minimum, meaning many small hydropower projects on the state’s tributary rivers were no longer able to generate power.  Larger hydropower projects on the main stem rivers, such as the Merrimack and Connecticut, were still operating.

Ninety-four water systems had implemented water restrictions.


Despite recent drought, southern Southeast’s wholesale power provider won’t raise rates — yet

KRBD-FM 103.5 Community Radio (Ketchikan, Alaska), 12-16-2019

Affected Area: Southeast Alaska

The Southeast Alaska Power Agency sold less power during the past two years as drought reduced hydropower production, forcing communities to rely on polluting, expensive diesel power.  Whereas revenues typically range from $10 million to $12 million annually, in the past year, it was a little more than $9 million.


Fire


Fire restrictions extended to Nov. 30 in Central Utah

Sanpete Messenger (Manti, Utah), 11-5-2020

Affected Area: Utah

Fire restrictions on public lands throughout Utah were extended through Nov. 30, due to drought, warm weather and unusually dry fuel conditions.


Deadly fire season returns, fire restrictions extended

The Payson Roundup (Ariz.), 11-3-2020

Affected Area: Arizona

All national forests in Arizona again imposed stage 1 fire restrictions as fuels were unusually dry for fall.


Oregon's 2020 wildfire season set every record for destruction. It could be just the beginning

Statesman Journal (Salem, Ore.), 10-30-2020

Affected Area: Oregon

Severe drought, extreme winds and multiple fires led to Oregon’s worst fire season on record, with almost 1.1 million acres burning in 2020.  The cost of fighting the fires was $609 million and was still climbing.  More than 4,000 homes burned.


Colorado’s 3 Largest Fires Ever Have Come in 2020

Laramie Live (Wyo.), 10-23-2020

Affected Area: Colorado

Colorado’s three largest wildfires to date, which all occurred in 2020, are the Cameron Peak Fire at more than 206,000 acres, the East Troublesome Fire at more than 170,000 acres, and the Pine Gulch Fire at just over 139,000 acres.  Prior to 2020, Colorado’s largest fire was the Hayman Fire which torched 137,760 acres in 2002.


Drought Creates Extreme Problems for Farmers and Fires

ecoRInews (Providence, R.I.), 10-15-2020

Affected Area: Rhode Island

More than one hundred wildfires have burned in Rhode Island in 2020, an increase from the 60 wildfires in an average year, according to the forest fire program coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.  Drought also made the fires more difficult to extinguish, allowing some blazes to burn for weeks or months.


General Awareness


Weekend rain expected to end record Las Vegas dry spell

Las Vegas Sun, 11-7-2020

Affected Area: Nevada

Las Vegas was on its 200th day of a dry stretch that began on April 20.


A whopping 39.5% of the U.S. is in moderate to exceptional drought

WTSP.com (St. Petersburg, Fla.), 10-22-2020

Affected Area: U.S.

Moderate to exceptional drought affected 39.5 percent of the U.S. and Puerto Rico.


Forecasters: Drought more likely than blizzards this winter

Associated Press, 10-15-2020

Affected Area: U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted a warmer and drier winter for the southern U.S., while the northern part of the country is likely to see colder and wetter conditions.


Nearly Half of the U.S. Is in Drought. It May Get Worse.

The New York Times, 10-15-2020

Affected Area: U.S.

Nearly half of the continental U.S. was in drought with conditions expected to deteriorate in much of the Southwest and South during the winter.  This is the most widespread drought in the continental U.S. since 2013.


Some researchers want new drought definition

Indiana Environmental Reporter (Bloomington), 10-5-2020

Affected Area:

Researchers at the University of Illinois would like to redefine drought with respect to crops in the Corn Belt.  While rainfall and soil moisture are telling, it is also important to consider vapor pressure deficit as it affects plants.


International


Argentina's wheat harvest seen at 16.7 mln tonnes, lowest in five years, exchange says

Reuters, 11-12-2020

Affected Area: Argentina

Prolonged drought in Argentina lowered the wheat harvest to 16.7 million tons, down from the estimate of 17 million tons.


Southern Taiwan to begin restricting water usage due to dwindling supply

Taiwan News, 11-12-2020

Affected Area: Taiwan

Water rationing measures were enacted for Chiayi and Tainan counties in Taiwan as local reservoirs run low, due to drought.  Tsengwen Dam, the country’s largest reservoir, was nearly empty and held just 23.4 percent of capacity.  The lack of typhoons this year led to the water shortage.


France Raises Wine Output Forecast After Late Charentes Rain

ESM - The European Supermarket Magazine, 11-11-2020

Affected Area: France

Wine production for the Bordeaux region of France was 9 percent lower than the 5-year average, due to summer drought.


Drought ravages cattle population in Zimbabwe

CAJ News Africa, 11-9-2020

Affected Area: Zimbabwe

Hundreds of cattle perished in Zimbabwe as pastures were bare and water supplies were drying.


France's Cristal Union Expects Up To 30% Drop In Sugar Beet Volumes

Successful Farming , 11-4-2020

Affected Area: France

France’s sugar beet producer, Cristal Union, anticipates a drop of 30 percent in production, due to crop disease and drought.


Mitigation


In the Sierra, scientists bet on ‘survivor’ trees to withstand drought and climate change

The San Diego Union-Tribune (Calif.), 11-18-2019

Affected Area: Sierra Nevada, California

In the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe, drought, bark beetles and climate change have killed many sugar pines, but some have withstood the siege.  Scientists were planting thousands of seedlings descended from the surviving trees, hoping that they possess genes that allow them to endure adverse conditions.


Bozeman increases water rates, prepares for drought

Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Mont.), 8-21-2019

Affected Area: Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman commissioners approved a water rate increase with the goal of reducing waste during drought. Additional fees will also be implemented if a drought is declared to curb water use. The more water used and the higher the drought stage, the higher water rates will be.


Drought watch -- 'We've managed it': Roza farmers finding ways to survive water shortage

Yakima Herald (Wash.), 7-31-2019

Affected Area: Washington State

Farmers in the Roza Irrigation District have found ways to be more efficient with the water supplies they got, given the 67 percent allocation, due to the drought emergency.  Many use drip irrigation systems.  Some farmers coordinated their water use to avoid fluctuations in canal levels that might cause others to lose water access for a while.  Another farmer selected his crops so that they do not all need water at the same time during the growing season.


As Drought Increases, Wyoming Pursues Dams And Cloud Seeding Projects

Wyoming Public Media (Laramie, Wyo.), 1-9-2019

Affected Area: Wyoming

Wyoming lawmakers were preparing for drought by looking at the potential construction of a West Fork dam project in southern Carbon County, the expansion of Big Sandy Reservoir in western Wyoming, as well as cloud-seeding in two mountain ranges on the Wyoming-Colorado border to increase rainfall.


Fire officials: Decision to close forests during the wildfire season paid off

Arizona Republic, AZCentral.com & KPNX-TV NBC 12 Phoenix, 10-4-2018

Affected Area: Arizona

Arizona fire officials felt good about their decision to close state and federal forests starting in May when the fire danger was unusually high, due to an historically dry winter, intense drought and an abundance of dry grasses ready to burn.  In 2018, only 156,317 acres of state land burned, compared to 412,746 acres in 2017.  Forests reopened in July after the monsoon season began.


Plants & Wildlife


Fish in peril after reservoir goes dry

Bend Bulletin (Ore.), 11-2-2020

Affected Area: Oregon

The low level of Wickiup Reservoir no longer provided adequate habitat for thousands of fish, leaving fish to wash downstream.  A number of factors contributed to the depletion of the reservoir, including water releases for the Oregon spotted frog and persistent drought.


Birders’ delight: Drought, fires pushing western birds to Island, coast

Harlingen Valley Morning Star (Texas), 10-26-2020

Affected Area: Texas

Drought and wildfires may be driving birds into different migratory routes as birds rarely seen in South Padre Island were making an appearance.  Some of the rare visitors were the painted redstart, Scott’s oriole, hermit warbler, broad-billed and calliope hummingbirds, and the Say’s phoebe, which were hundreds and even more than a thousand miles outside of their normal ranges far to the west.


State forests are under attack; Insects, storms, drought threaten area’s trees

Journal Inquirer (Manchester, Conn.), 10-22-2020

Affected Area: Connecticut

Connecticut’s trees were under stress from insects, tropical storms and drought, leading to the removal of more trees than in past years.


Drought forces CPW to order fish salvage at Wahatoya Reservoir

Out There Colorado (Colorado Springs), 10-14-2020

Affected Area: Colorado

An emergency fish salvage was issued by officials from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for Wahatoya Reservoir in Huerfano County as drought reduced water storage, endangering the fish.  The salvage will begin Oct. 19.


Minnesota bear harvest highest in 13 years

Grand Forks Herald (Minn.), 10-8-2020

Affected Area: Minnesota

Minnesota bear hunters killed 3,065 bears so far in 2020, which is 32 percent higher than in 2019.  It is thought that the increase is not due to a larger bear population, but that more bears were drawn to hunter bait stations as drought reduced wild food crops.


Relief, Response, & Restrictions


Group again recommends governor extend drought emergency declaration

Pinal Central (Casa Grande, Ariz.), 11-12-2020

Affected Area: Arizona

Arizona’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group recommended to the governor that the state’s drought-emergency declaration be extended again.  Arizona has had a Drought Emergency Declaration in effect since June 1999 and a Drought Declaration since May 2007.


Drought conditions improve in Massachusetts

Greenwich Time (Conn.), 11-9-2020

Affected Area: Massachusetts

As drought conditions improved in Massachusetts, the State Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary announced that southeastern Massachusetts went from a Level 3 “Critical Drought” to a Level 2 “Significant Drought.”  Cape Cod remained at Level 2, and conditions elsewhere were improved to a Level 1 “Mild Drought,” except for the Nashua River basin, which was at Level 2.


Pennsylvania drought watch area expanded again

PennLive.com (Mechanicsburg), 10-28-2020

Affected Area: Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection added Columbia County to the list of counties in a drought watch, bringing the total number of counties to 30.  Three counties remained in a drought warning.


State Offers Bottled Water, Financial Aid To Homes With Dry Wells Due To Drought

New Hampshire Public Radio (Concord), 10-23-2020

Affected Area: New Hampshire

Low-income homeowners with dry wells in New Hampshire were eligible to receive emergency aid and bottled water from the state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund, which contributed $1.5 million for the relief program.


Critical Drought Conditions Declared in Parts of Mass.

NBC Boston (Mass.), 10-9-2020

Affected Area: Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs declared a level 3 drought declaration, or critical drought, for southeast Massachusetts.  The other six regions in the state, Western, Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast, Cape Cod, and Islands, remained at a Level 2, or significant drought.  Residents were urged to continue conserving water.  Caution with fire was also recommended.


Research


Dust Bowl 2.0? Rising Great Plains dust levels stir concerns

Science Magazine, 10-20-2020

Affected Area: Great Plains

Dust storms on the Great Plains have become more frequent and more intense in the past 20 years, due to more frequent drought and the expansion of croplands.  Research from the University of Utah indicates that the region may be nearing a tipping point at which Dust Bowl conditions could return.


One-Two Punch

The University of California Santa Barbara Current, 10-12-2020

Affected Area:

Repeated droughts are generally increasingly detrimental to forests, found researchers from UC Santa Barbara, who noted two clear findings.  Firstly, trees seem to become more vulnerable to stress after multiple droughts.  Secondly, conifers have different vascular systems than broadleaf trees, and conifers may sustain more damage in an initial drought and be less able to withstand subsequent droughts, compared to broadleaf trees.


Could Twitter help Utah track drought conditions?

KSL.com (Salt Lake City, Utah), 10-11-2020

Affected Area:

Utah State University researchers were gathering information from Twitter to monitor drought using a ‘sentiment analyzer’ model and found it to be useful.  The drought tracker could fill in gaps between traditional weather stations and give researchers a more immediate picture of drought conditions.


Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean

YubaNet (Calif.), 9-24-2020

Affected Area:

Researchers have identified a new kind of “landfalling drought” that begins over the ocean before moving onto land, and which can cause larger, drier conditions than other droughts.


2000-2010 drought in Upper Missouri River Basin driest in 1,200 years

Phys.org, 5-12-2020

Affected Area: Upper Missouri River Basin

The 2000-2010 drought in the Upper Missouri River Basin was the driest in the past 1,200 years, according to a large team of researchers, who consulted a network of databases and other resources describing conditions over the past 2,000 years.  Some of the information used to reach their conclusion was tree ring data for many parts of the Missouri River Basin.


Society & Public Health


Cases of tickborne diseases down so far this year

News Center Maine (Portland), 10-26-2020

Affected Area: Maine

Fewer cases of tick-borne illnesses were reported in Maine this year as drought led to less tick activity.  Just 822 cases of Lyme disease were recorded in Maine, compared to more than 2,000 cases in 2019.  Two other tick-borne illnesses, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, were also low, with only 401 cases, in comparison with 823 cases in 2019.


Mainers see fewer bugs thanks to dry summer

WMTW Portland (Maine), 9-14-2020

Affected Area: Maine

The preliminary count of cases of Lyme disease through Sept. 7 was 626, far below the 2,167 cases reported in 2019.  There were similarly fewer cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis, also tick-borne diseases.  Fewer mosquitoes were caught in traps over the summer.

Other parts of New England, such as Vermont and New Hampshire, were also finding fewer ticks and mosquitoes. In Vermont, insect counts were down about 42 percent, compared to 2019.  No cases of West Nile virus or Eastern equine encephalitis were reported in Maine or Vermont so far in 2020.


Trees dead from 2011 drought now pose falling danger

KLTV ABC (Tyler, Texas), 7-28-2020

Affected Area: Texas

East Texas trees killed by drought in 2011 were dropping branches, taking down power lines and causing property damage.


Drought having an impact on allergies

WKRN News 2 (Nashville, Tenn.), 10-1-2019

Affected Area: Middle Tennessee

People in Middle Tennessee have noticed allergy symptoms ramping up in the last couple of months.  While ample rainfall earlier in the year led to an earlier bloom, the dry weather recently has meant more ragweed pollen.  Little rain has fallen to remove the pollen from the air.


Sumter farmers' rain prayer answered after photo of group goes viral

The Sumter Item (S.C.), 6-11-2019

Affected Area: Central South Carolina

More than a dozen Sumter County farmers gathered on June 3 to pray for rain to relieve the drought and sustain their crops.  In subsequent days, rain fell.


Tourism & Recreation


Pheasant Hunting Underway In Iowa

Raccoon Valley Radio (Perry, Iowa), 11-3-2020

Affected Area: Iowa

Pheasant counts were up 18 percent across Iowa, but counts were 8 percent lower in the parched west central region of the state.


DNR: Fall trout stockings will begin Oct. 19 despite low water

Herald (Hagerstown, Md.), 10-18-2020

Affected Area: West Virginia

Some West Virginia streams were too low to be stocked with fish, leading the state Division of Natural Resources stocking crews to focus more on stocking lakes this fall.


Drought forces CPW to order fish salvage at Wahatoya Reservoir

Out There Colorado (Colorado Springs), 10-14-2020

Affected Area: Colorado

An emergency fish salvage was issued by officials from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for Wahatoya Reservoir in Huerfano County as drought reduced water storage, endangering the fish.  The salvage will begin Oct. 19.


Drought Devastates Iowa Summer Fishing Season

Raccoon Valley Radio (Perry, Iowa), 9-26-2020

Affected Area: Iowa

Fishing was poor across Iowa during the summer as drought contributed to a number of blue-green algae blooms in the state, according to a conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


DEC: Salmon River low water level closes fly-fishing section until 'further notice’

NewYorkUpstate.com (Syracuse, N.Y.), 9-15-2020

Affected Area: New York

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced the closure of the Salmon River from the County Route 52 bridge in Altmar upstream one-quarter of a mile to the marked boundary at Beaverdam Brook until further notice.  The catch and release zone was low and warm, due to drought conditions.  The goal was to ensure an adequate Pacific salmon egg take at the nearby Salmon River Fish Hatchery for the fall 2020 spawning season.


Water Supply & Quality


Low New Hampshire groundwater levels causing concern as drought continues

WMUR-TV ABC 9 Manchester (N.H.), 11-12-2020

Affected Area: New Hampshire

While New Hampshire’s rivers and streams were below normal, groundwater levels were even lower.  In the Concord area, the groundwater level fell about a quarter of a foot in just the past 30 days.  Water conservation was recommended.


Water outlook dismal for Sanpete County as well as state

Sanpete Messenger (Manti, Utah), 11-11-2020

Affected Area: Utah

Sanpete County and all of Utah need good precipitation after a poor 2020 water year.  In October, precipitation at Utah’s SNOTEL sites was 23 percent of average.


Over 1,000 residential wells impacted by drought

Associated Press, 11-6-2020

Affected Area: New Hampshire

More than 1,000 residential wells in New Hampshire were affected by drought, according to a phone survey conducted by the state Department of Environmental Services.  Many in the well drilling and pump industry reported backlogs of several weeks as people cope with low and dry wells.


Army Corps shifts river management focus from flood to drought

Nebraska City News-Press (Neb.), 11-5-2020

Affected Area: Upper Missouri River Basin

The Army Corps of Engineers has shifted to meeting downstream flow targets and will switch to the winter release rate of 17,000 cubic feet per second on Nov. 22.


New Mexico pumping into Pecos River to supply Carlsbad water users amid statewide drought

Carlsbad Current Argus (N.M.), 11-4-2020

Affected Area: New Mexico

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission began pumping water from multiple state-owned wells into the Pecos River to provide enough water for irrigation and other uses in the Carlsbad area.