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.


Drought, hay shortages push Central Oregon cattle producers to brink

Capital Press (Salem, Ore.), 8-19-2021

Affected Area: Oregon

The lack of water for operating a cattle feedlot and growing hay puts one cattlewoman at risk of losing her farm.  She intends to sell her 4,000 cattle in November.  With water in short supply, she planted half of her fields with corn, hay and alfalfa and received 1 acre-foot of water for irrigation.

The prices of premium alfalfa was $190 to $250 six months ago, but has increased to $200 to $285 at present, according to Hay & Forage Grower.

Stung by climate change: drought-weakened bee colonies shrink U.S. honey crop, threaten almonds

Reuters, 8-19-2021

Affected Area: North Dakota, California

Drought devastated honey production in North Dakota as there was little nectar for the bees to gather for making honey.  The North Dakota and Midwestern bees were also weakened and in short supply for pollinating crops on the West Coast like almonds and apples.

Drought is driving up pollination costs for California almond growers.

California drought takes toll on world’s top almond producer

Associated Press News (New York), 8-17-2021

Affected Area: California

California produces 80% of the world’s almonds and has a $6 billion almond industry, but the lack of water is forcing almond growers to make hard decisions about whether to continue growing them as some almond orchards were planted in areas with unreliable water supplies.  Numerous growers could not afford the water and have allowed the trees to die.

Beware of toxic plants

Beef Magazine , 8-16-2021

Affected Area: Iowa

Livestock producers should assess pasture for weeds as drought might make toxic plants more abundant. 

Pastures, hay fields in drought-stressed areas will likely be weedier.  Those weeds may be poisonous or higher in nitrates than is okay for livestock to eat.  Fertilized fields may also be high in nitrates.

Drought causes short feed crops for livestock

Rapid City Journal (S.D.), 8-14-2021

Affected Area: South Dakota

After a hot, dry July, feed crops, like hay, corn silage, oats and more, for livestock were severely limited, especially in the middle of the state.  Without moisture, ranchers cannot plant a fall cover crop for grazing, leaving ranchers searching for feed supplies. 

As a result, cattle sales were up.

Business & Industry

Some rural bankers worried drought will threaten operations

Associated Press News (New York), 8-19-2021

Affected Area: U.S.

The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index dropped slightly in August to 65.3 from July’s 65.6 with a score above 50 indicating a growing economy.  The survey revealed that nearly 16% of bankers believe that continuing drought conditions are the greatest threat to their banking operations over the coming year.

Well-Drilling Companies Working Overtime During Minnesota’s Drought

CBS Minnesota (Minneapolis), 8-16-2021

Affected Area: Minnesota

A Waite Park well drilling business was extremely busy servicing wells and drilling new wells as pumps or irrigation systems suffer from overuse.

Drought can be beneficial for industries like construction

Valley News Live (Fargo, N.D.), 8-13-2021

Affected Area: North Dakota

Red River Valley construction companies were completing projects ahead of schedule without rain delays.

Drought has Milwaukee irrigation companies working overtime

FOX6 Milwaukee (Wis.), 6-10-2021

Affected Area: Wisconsin

Milwaukee irrigation companies were seeing a surge in interest in irrigation systems as the weather took a dry turn.  Some businesses were booked for a month and a half for service.

Drought prompting innovations to hydraulic well fracturing; production outlook good for state

Williston Herald (N.D.), 4-29-2021

Affected Area: North Dakota

Drought in North Dakota was limiting water supplies for hydraulic well fracturing as drilling one well typically requires 25 acre-feet, or about 9 million gallons, per well.  The industry was looking at using a small quantity of freshwater along with a larger quantity of treated produced water, reducing freshwater use by up to 75%, potentially saving 6.75 million gallons of freshwater per well.


St. Cloud dam generators shut down due to low river flows for first time since 1988

St. Cloud Times (Minn.), 8-17-2021

Affected Area: Minnesota

The St. Cloud Hydroelectric Generation Facility ceased production Aug. 16 when the Mississippi River dropped below 700 cubic feet per second and was near a historical low.  Power production has not ended due to low flows since 1988.

How California’s Drought Puts Pressure On Natural Gas Prices In Texas

Texas Standard (Austin, Texas), 6-28-2021

Affected Area: California

Drought has significantly reduced hydropower production in California, leading the state to turn to other sources of power, like natural gas from Texas, which has affected prices.

Drought Impacting Fox Valley Business And Utilities

WNFL-AM (Green Bay, Wis.), 6-17-2021

Affected Area: Wisconsin

Nearly all dam gates were closed, significantly reducing flow from Lake Winnebago into the Fox River.  The manager of generation and substations at Kaukauna Utilities said that water levels have not been this low since 2012, resulting in some units being shut down.  Optimal hydropower production occurs when the flow ranges from 5,000 to 7,000 cubic feet per second, but the flow was just 1,100 cfs, reducing production and forcing utilities to buy from elsewhere. 

A California reservoir is expected to fall so low that a hydro-power plant will shut down for first time

CNN, 6-17-2021

Affected Area: California

The Edward Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville likely has enough water to continue producing hydropower for another two to three months before the water level is expected to fall too low for further power production, according to a California Energy Commission spokesperson.  The hydroelectric power plant, the fourth largest energy producer in California, has never closed before since it began operation in 1967, but its production was 20% of total capacity as water levels fall.  The present water level was near 700 feet above sea level, but power generation would end at 640 feet.

California Walking a ‘Tight Rope’ as Hydropower Supply Fades

Bloomberg Green, 6-15-2021

Affected Area: California

Low water in Western reservoirs translates to the lower hydropower production.  In California, output has fallen to the lowest point in more than five years.  Nationwide, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects electricity generation from conventional hydro sources to decrease by about 11% in 2021, compared to 2020.

In California, hydropower production was down about 40% in June, compared with June 2020, according to BloombergNEF.  PG&E, a large California utility, was holding back water to have enough for hydropower when the power demand increases with high temperatures. 


Caldor Fire, still growing and uncontained, destroys more than 100 structures

The Modesto Bee (Calif.), 8-20-2021

Affected Area: California

The Caldor Fire in El Dorado County consumed more than 73,000 acres and continued to defy containment. 

“With historic drought conditions there is heavy dead and down fuels through the fire area,” according to Cal Fire and Forest Service officials.

As Greenwood fire rages on, northeastern Minnesota county declares emergency

Grand Forks Herald (N.D.), 8-19-2021

Affected Area: Minnesota

The Greenwood Fire burned 4,200 acres and continued to expand, prompting Lake County officials to declare a state of emergency.

Fire Crews Get Creative With Water Sources During Drought Conditions

CBS Sacramento (Calif.), 8-19-2021

Affected Area: California

As reservoirs and other water sources become depleted amid drought, California fire fighters look to alternative water supplies, such as people’s swimming pools or tanks of water on private property when they really need water.  Cal Fire replaces the water later once the fire is under control.

Pacific Northwest wildfires have burned 1 million more acres in 2021 compared to this time last year

KING 5 (Seattle, Wash.), 8-16-2021

Affected Area: Washington, Oregon

More than 1 million acres burned in wildfires in Washington and Oregon by Aug. 15, compared with about 52,500 acres by the same time in 2020, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.  Drought allowed the fire season to get a head start this year.

‘It’s outrageous.’ Early-season cost to fight wildfires has Utah leaders worried

The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), 7-2-2021

Affected Area: Utah

Firefighting on state and federal lands in Utah has cost around $36 million since the start of the year, which is unusual so early in the year.  The number of wildfires was below that of 2020, but intense drought and extreme heat have made it difficult to manage wildfires.

General Awareness

Western Drought Will Last Into Fall or Longer

The New York Times , 8-19-2021

Affected Area: Western U.S.

The drought outlook for September through November indicates that drought is expected to remain entrenched in the Western U.S., the Dakotas, Minnesota, parts of Nebraska and Iowa as well as a sliver of the Northeast and parts of Hawaii.

La Niña Watch Is Officially On This Fall, and That Could Be Disastrous for the Drought

SFist (San Francisco, Calif.), 8-13-2021

Affected Area: U.S.

The Climate Prediction Center announced a 60% chance that a La Niña pattern will form this fall, which may mean continued dry conditions for Southern California and the Southwest.

A Drought of Biblical Proportions Is Here

National Review, 6-25-2021

Affected Area: U.S. West

The drought entrenched in the West could be the worst in 1,200 years.  Forty percent of the U.S. was in drought, extreme heat was a problem, and wildfires raged in the West in 2020 and are expected to do the same in 2021.

Monsoon season is not expected to bring much relief to the drought-stricken Southwest this year

CNN, 6-12-2021

Affected Area: Southwest

The coming monsoon season for the Southwest is slightly favored to be drier than normal in 2021, according to lead meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

"Confidence in below-normal precipitation is generally higher for eastern areas of the monsoon region," including New Mexico.

Most of the Bay Area Is Now in Extreme Drought

NBC Bay Area (San Jose, Calif.), 4-29-2021

Affected Area: California

Much of the Bay Area was in extreme drought as shown on the April 29 release of the U.S. Drought Monitor.  More than 97% of the Golden State was in some level of drought.


Drought alerts and hosepipe bans in force in south and west France

The Connexion , 8-18-2021

Affected Area: France

Drought warnings and water restrictions were in effect for southern and western parts of France.

Drought Conditions Tighten Global Wheat Supply

CJWW Radio (Saskatoon, Canada), 8-17-2021

Affected Area:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its global wheat production forecast by 2% due to drought in Western Canada, the northern U.S. and parts of Russia.

Drought in northern Ontario leaves farmers with dry creeks, livestock feed shortage

CP24 (Toronto, Canada), 8-17-2021

Affected Area: Canada

Drought in northwest Ontario leaves streams running dry, crop losses, early harvests and early cattle sales for lack of forage.

UN aid chief in Afghanistan warns of hunger caused by drought

Reuters, 8-17-2021

Affected Area: Afghanistan

Afghanistan was suffering its second drought in four years, leaving half of the children under the age of 5 years facing acute malnutrition. 

Drought leads 53 cities in Brazil’s Southeast, South and Midwest to ration water

The Rio Times (Brazil), 8-14-2021

Affected Area: Brazil

Cities in the south, southeast and Midwest parts of Brazil were subject to water rationing.  The basins of the Grande, Paraná, Paranapanema and Paraguay Rivers were in severe drought.


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, & 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

Wild horse roundups ramping up as drought grips the US West

Associated Press News (New York), 8-18-2021

Affected Area: Utah

The Bureau of Land Management manages the wild horse population in the West and intended to gather around 6,000 horses, largely in Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming and Colorado by October, rounding up 50% more horses than in 2020.  Meager precipitation allowed little vegetation to grow this spring and summer for the animals to eat.

California Drought: More Wild Animals Feeding In Backyards As Plants Dry Up In East Bay Parks

KPIX CBS San Francisco (Calif.), 8-13-2021

Affected Area: California

As wetlands and ponds dry up in East Bay Regional Parks, many of the native plants and trees were also dying, making the parks less habitable to wildlife.  More animals, such as deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, skunks and raccoons were venturing into people’s yards, looking for food and water.

Rattlesnakes, bears are everywhere in California now because of epic drought

The Hill (Washington, D.C.), 6-28-2021

Affected Area: California

More wildlife, notably bears and rattlesnakes, were encroaching on California’s urban areas in search of wetter, cooler conditions.

AZGFD plans to haul nearly 3 million gallons of water to thirsty wildlife

KTAR 620 News Radio (Phoenix, Ariz.), 6-22-2021

Affected Area: Arizona

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has hauled water for wildlife since 2020 as drought remained intense and last year’s monsoon did not refill water catchments.  AZGFD expects to haul nearly 3 million gallons of water for wildlife in 2021, an increase over 2020 when the agency trucked and airlifted about 2.4 million gallons.

Drought means disaster in Sand Wash Basin as wild horses, other wildlife left without water

Craig Daily Press (Colo.), 6-17-2021

Affected Area: Colorado

Drought left more than 700 wild horses in the Sand Wash Basin with just one water hole.  The generator pumping water into the hole broke down, leaving the horses with little water left.  The Bureau of Land Management has agreed to assist, but numerous states were seeking water for wild horses, delaying the BLM’s response time.

Relief, Response, & Restrictions

Minnesota's drought reaches levels not seen since 1988 and the Dust Bowl

Minneapolis Star Tribune (Minn.), 8-18-2021

Affected Area: Minnesota

Many of Minnesota’s streams were low like during the 1988 drought or even the Dust Bowl years as the state Department of Natural Resources categorized much of the state as being in a “restricted phase” as drought continued to worsen.  Water use must be limited to no more than 25% above water use in January.  The new DNR restrictions take effect for about 300 towns within the Mississippi River Headwaters, Rainy River and Red River watersheds.  The area encompasses Minneapolis and St. Paul, most of central Minnesota and much of the northern part of the state.

Western state governors push Biden admin to declare federal drought disaster

The Center Square (Bismarck, N.D.), 8-16-2021

Affected Area: Western U.S.

Western U.S. governors sent a letter to President Biden on Sunday, Aug 15, requesting a federal disaster declaration.  Signing onto the letter were the governors of Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and Washington. 

In addition to the hardships of drought, many western states were also battling wildfires.

Gianforte declares drought emergency

KECI-TV NBC 13 Missoula (Mont.), 7-1-2021

Affected Area: Montana

Gov. Greg Gianforte issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought emergency for Montana.  The order directed the state departments of agriculture, livestock, natural resources and conservation to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to access federal funding.  Some regulations were suspended for motor vehicles providing drought-related support.

Governor Polis Declares State Drought Emergency for Western Colorado

Colorado Water Conservation Board (Denver), 7-1-2021

Affected Area: Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis declared a drought emergency for western Colorado as impacts continued and water shortages occurred as the region endured years of intense drought.

Gov. Kristi Noem declares state of emergency in response to drought, allows haying of roadside grasses

Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), 6-29-2021

Affected Area: South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem declared a state of emergency for South Dakota, due to widespread drought.  Her executive order will permit ditch mowing immediately in eastern South Dakota, although such mowing would normally not be allowed until after July 10.  Almost 70% of pasture land was rated very poor or poor in South Dakota this past week, as reported by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.  The executive order will remain in effect through Aug. 31.


Wildfire Smoke May Lead to Less Rain in the Western US

Lab Manager (Wilmington, Del.), 8-13-2021

Affected Area: Western U.S.

Minuscule particles in wildfire smoke affect the way droplets form in clouds, potentially resulting in less rain and exacerbating dry conditions that fuel fires, according to a new study.

OSU study: Unprecedented combination of weather, drought fueled devastating 2020 wildfires

KTVZ (Bend, Ore.), 4-26-2021

Affected Area: Oregon

An unprecedented combination of strong easterly winds and low humidity combined with prolonged drought conditions drove the spread of massive wildfires in the Oregon Cascades in September 2020, according to a study by Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

An estimated 11% of the Oregon Cascades burned from Sept. 7 to 9, 2020.

A new drought monitoring approach: Vector Projection Analysis (VPA)

EurekAlert!, 4-15-2021

Affected Area:

A team of researchers, affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea has proposed a satellite-aided drought monitoring method that can adequately represent the complex drought conditions into a single integrated drought index.  The newly-proposed drought index has attracted considerable attention as a new method for monitoring and forecasting drought hazards due to its accuracy with no space-time constraints.

Study: Drought-breaking rains more rare, erratic in US West

Associated Press, 4-6-2021

Affected Area: U.S. West

Rains were more erratic in the U.S. West and droughts were longer in the past 50 years, due to climate change, according to research from the University of Arizona climate scientist Fangyue Zhang and others.  The biggest changes were in the Southwest where the average dry spell between rains increased from about 30 days in the 1970s to 45 days between storms at present.

Ancient people may have survived desert droughts by melting ice in lava tubes

Science News (Washington, D.C.), 12-8-2020

Affected Area: New Mexico

Research into ice cores at El Malpais National Monument in western New Mexico indicated that ancestral Puebloans used fire to melt ice from lava tubes during drought.

Society & Public Health

Dry soil may cause building problems

The Jamestown Sun (N.D.), 8-15-2021

Affected Area: North Dakota

Drought is causing home and building foundations to crack in North Dakota.

1965 California plane crash may be solved after underwater researchers discover debris

ABC News, 6-14-2021

Affected Area: California

A small plane that crashed into Folsom Lake on New Year's Day in 1965 may have been discovered by technicians testing sonar technology in the lake as the water was unusually low at 37% of capacity, due to drought.

Bismarck church leading community prayer action for rain; drought worsens in North Dakota

The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.), 4-17-2021

Affected Area: North Dakota

Leaders at a Bismarck church organized a communitywide prayer effort to pray for rain to end the drought in North Dakota.

Pizza Dough Prices May Rise as Dryness Imperils U.S. Wheat

Bloomberg, 4-7-2021

Affected Area: U.S.

With two-thirds of the Northern Plains spring wheat belt being too dry to germinate planted seeds in the next week, according to a Commodity Weather Group report, spring wheat prices rose to the highest price in nearly three weeks.  The dryness occurred as farmers planned to plant less spring wheat.

Drought May Lead to Elevated Levels of Naturally Occurring Arsenic in Private Domestic Wells

U.S. Geological Survey, 3-18-2021

Affected Area: U.S.

Drought could lead to elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic in domestic wells, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The longer a drought lasts, the higher the probability of arsenic concentrations exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standard for drinking water.  Homeowners would be wise to test their well water to ensure it is safe for consumption, especially in drought-prone areas.

Tourism & Recreation

Warm water ‘hoot owl’ limits asked

Sonoma Index-Tribune (Calif.), 8-12-2021

Affected Area: California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife asked anglers to fish in the early part of the day and finish by noon so as not to stress fish during the hottest part of the day when the water is warm and oxygen levels are lower. 

Utah increases fishing limits due to drought, low water levels

KSL NewsRadio 102.7FM 1160AM (Salt Lake City, Utah), 7-2-2021

Affected Area: Utah

Utah fishing limits were raised for anglers as the hot, dry weather lowered water levels and allowed water temperatures to rise.  Increased catch limits to be in effect through Oct. 31.

ODFW: Emergency fishing regulations in response to drought to begin Wednesday

KTVZ-TV NewsChannel 21 (Bend, Ore.), 6-30-2021

Affected Area: Oregon

Emergency fishing restrictions took effect in Oregon July 1 through Sept. 30 in several angling zones as intense drought threatens fish.

Wildlife officials ask anglers not to fish the Dolores River for the first time ever as rain fails to dent Western Slope drought

The Colorado Sun (Denver), 6-29-2021

Affected Area: Colorado

Anglers were urged to voluntarily stop fishing the Dolores River in southwest Colorado by noon as drought reduced the river flow to 9 cubic feet per second and allowed water temperatures to rise to around 75 degrees.   The Animas, San Juan and Colorado rivers may also be closed in the near future.

Warm water, low flows prompt fishing restrictions on several rivers

Ravalli Republic (Mont.), 6-28-2021

Affected Area: Montana

Fishing restrictions in Montana, known as “hoot owl” closures, and some full closures took effect on several rivers, due to low flows and warm waters.  The hoot owl restrictions mean that fishing is prohibited from 2 p.m. to midnight.  Sections of these rivers were affected, including Beaverhead River, Smith River, Shields River, Lower Big Hole River, Upper Big Hole River, Jefferson River and Sun River.

Water Supply & Quality

‘That’s a lot of water’: Lewis & Clark Regional Water System setting records during 2021 drought

KELOLAND-TV CBS 11 (Sioux Falls, S.D.), 8-20-2021

Affected Area: South Dakota

The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System in Tea has produced record amounts of water for the systems it serves, which include 15 members in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa and the city of Sioux Falls.  The system produced 32 million gallons one day and averaged roughly 28 million gallons daily in June.

Minnesota Drought: Rivers In Western, Northern MN Seeing Less Than 10% Of Their Average Flow

CBS Minnesota (Minneapolis), 8-19-2021

Affected Area: Minnesota

Many rivers and streams in northern and western Minnesota were increasingly parched amid drought, reaching “low flow,” which is less than 10% of normal flow.

Gov. Newsom says mandatory statewide water restrictions for California may be on the way

The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.), 8-18-2021

Affected Area: California

Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that he may enact mandatory water restrictions in as soon as six weeks as drought intensified in California, which would be early October.  He also said that drought emergency declarations would likely need to be extended to the entire state.

Southern California water officials declare supply alert amid worsening drought

Los Angeles Times (Calif.), 8-17-2021

Affected Area: California

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California issued a water supply alert signaling that conservation is needed as drought continues.  The last time an official supply alert was issued was in 2014.  MWD serves 19 million people in six counties in Southern California, including the Los Angeles area.  The MWD’s reservoirs containing imported Colorado River water and State Water Project water were nearing historically low levels.

EXPLAINER: Western states face first federal water cuts

Associated Press News (New York), 8-16-2021

Affected Area: Colorado River Basin

A water shortage in the Colorado River Basin was announced by the Bureau of Reclamation on Aug. 16 as Lake Mead fell to record low levels.  Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will receive less water in 2022, with Arizona farmers seeing the biggest cut in water deliveries as the state gets 18% less of its share of river water.  Nevada will lose 7%, while Mexico will get about 5% less.