Drought

Since 1980 the United States has experienced more than 24 major droughts, resulting in almost 3,000 deaths and economic impacts exceeding $225 billion. All areas of the U.S. have some drought risk.

Basics

Pakowki Lake in southeastern Alberta, Canada, a lake that is usually dry but fills up with water when there is a lot of rain. Image Copyright © Michael Collier

Drought is a water shortage caused by abnormally dry weather. Drought is relative to normal conditions, so weather conditions that create severe drought in a state like Georgia may be normal for an arid state such as Arizona. All regions of the United States have some drought risk. The impact of a drought depends not only on the severity of dry weather but also on local water use and supply. To identify and forecast drought, scientists and managers must monitor not only precipitation but also water demand and available water resources. These resources may be found in reservoirs, in rivers, in the soil, and underground as groundwater.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

NOAA U.S. Winter Outlook Temperature Map
(2016-10-21)
On October 20, 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its U.S. Winter Outlook, and the updated La Niña forecast took center stage. Mike Halpert, Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), and David Miskus, also of CPC, briefed reporters and...
AGI Forum 2016 Groundwater Issues
(2016-10-21)
There is still time to register for this event! The 2016 Critical Issues Forum, Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer, will be held October 27-28 in Golden, Colorado. If you are a current student or belong to an AGI member society, you will...
NGWA logo
(2016-09-27)
The National Ground Water Association published a new Washington Update. They reported that the NGWA Regulatory Affairs Officer participated in a White House Roundtable on National Drought Resistance Resilience and discussed the importance of groundwater monitoring and modeling, the National Ground...
August 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks. Image Credit: NOAA
(2016-09-21)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) held their latest Monthly Climate Briefing on September 15, 2016, and we have summarized the highlights for you below: •  August 2016 is the 17th warmest (73.6°F, 1.5°F above average), 2nd wettest August (3.47", 0.85" above average) since...
AGI Forum 2016 Groundwater Issues
(2016-09-16)
Register today for the 2016 Critical Issues Forum on Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer, which will be held October 27-28, 2016 in Golden, Colorado. Members of AGI member organizations receive a discount on full priced registration. Book your...
U.S. national map showing drought risk.
(2016-08-11)
#MapOfTheDay! Explore #drought risk across the U.S. http://bit.ly/1FRHakA via @DroughtCenter...
IES Water Glyph
(2016-04-26)
April 21, 2016 The American Water Resources Association (AWRA) Policy Committee released the second volume of their report, “Proactive Flood and Drought Management”. As in Volume I, Volume II presents detailed case studies of efforts on local and regional scales to prepare for and mitigate the...
Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2015-08-12)
July 29, 2015 Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) unveiled a bill on July 29 to help mitigate the drought that is tearing through the state. Their solution involves transferring water from the San Joaquin Valley to central and southern California for agricultural relief. This...
IES Water Glyph
(2015-08-12)
July 16, 2015 On July 16, the House passed the Western Waters and American Food Security Act of 2015 (H.R. 2898), largely along party lines. The bill addresses drought by laying the groundwork for new water storage projects in California and loosens environmental restrictions in the state, a...
IES Water Glyph
(2015-07-06)
June 25, 2015  On June 25, Representative David Valadao (R-CA) introduced H.R. 2898, entitled the “Western Water and American Food Security Act,” in an effort mitigate the impacts of the drought in California and other Western states. The bill would work on improving water infrastructure in...

Research Database Publications

Cover image for WRI-7 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2013, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
Based on available pumping records, an average of 14.6 billion gallons of water are pumped from the Lower Raccoon River aquifer each year. Additional water production is available from the aquifer, but limitations exist during extremely dry years. Additional pumping capacity ranges from 10 percent...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3028 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Georgia Water Science Center (GaWSC) maintains a long-term hydrologic monitoring network of more than 330 real-time streamgages, including 10 real-time lake-level monitoring stations, 63 real-time water-quality monitors, and 48 water-quality sampling stations....
Cover image for WRI-9 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2014, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
This investigation evaluated groundwater resources of the alluvial aquifer located adjacent to the Rock River. Recent drought conditions prompted this study and can have a dramatic effect on groundwater resources. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the aquifer to aid in future...
Cover of fs2016-3025 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Managing the urban-water cycle has increasingly become a challenge for water-resources planners and regulators faced with the problem of providing clean drinking water to urban residents. Sanitary and combined sanitary and storm sewer networks convey wastewater to centralized treatment plants....
Cover of fs2016-3023 ; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Urbanization affects streamflow characteristics, coastal flooding, and groundwater recharge. Increasing impervious areas, streamflow diversions, and groundwater pumpage are some of the ways that the natural water cycle is affected by urbanization. Assessment of the relations among these factors and...
Cover image for WRI-11 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2015, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) completed a drought assessment to evaluate current and future groundwater availability for the Osceola County Rural Water District (OCRWD) wellfield near May City, Iowa. In addition, a calibrated groundwater flow model was constructed to provide OCRWD with various...
Cover image for WRI-10 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2014, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Iowa Geological Survey completed a hydrogeologic evaluation of the water resources in the Ocheyedan River aquifer in Osceola, O’Brien, Clay and Dickinson counties in Iowa. The work was funded under the Water Plan Program of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The primary objective of this...
Cover of fs2016-3008; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has many ongoing and recent water-related natural hazard activities in New England that can be used to help mitigate the effects of natural hazards in cooperation with other agencies. The themes related to potential hazards and the tools and science to better...
Cover of WRI-12; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2015, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The reoccurring drought in western Iowa starting in 2011 has forced many public water utilities to actively look for alternative sources of water. Based on this demand for additional water, many water utilities and private well owners in western Iowa are looking at the Lower Dakota aquifer as a...
Cover image for WRI-13 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
2015, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
The Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) completed a drought assessment to evaluate current and future groundwater storage and availability for the City of Sioux Center’s (City) alluvial wellfield. The City had previously hired DGR Engineering to design two low-head dams along the west fork of the Floyd...