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Drought Impacts

Drought’s consequences are far-reaching, impacting water quality, public health, the economy, the natural environment, public infrastructure, and more. Understanding drought’s potential impacts enables drought planners and decision makers to better address those impacts and, ultimately, improve their communities' preparedness to cope with drought.

Data and Maps

To monitor and respond to drought, its impacts on a community must be fully understood. Immediate drought impacts can include visibly dry vegetation and lower water levels in lakes and reservoirs. Longer-term impacts, such as land subsidence, seawater intrusion, and damage to ecosystems, can be harder to see, but more costly to manage in the future. 

Drought Impacts

NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information have been tracking billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S., including extreme drought events, since 1980. This map shows the cumulative cost of billion-dollar drought events by state from 1980 to the present. Specifically, the map reflects drought-induced costs associated with damaged or failed crop production and increased cattle feeding costs. Key sources include USDA crop insurance and production data (RMA and NASS) that may be supplemented by state agency reporting. Learn more

This map shows the cumulative number of weeks each state experienced Moderate (D1) to Exceptional (D4) Drought over the past 52 weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly maps of drought across the U.S. Note: The total length of time each region spent in drought may not be consecutive. Learn more.

Cost of Drought Events Since 1980

The color with the hex code #ffffff identifies:
$0
The color with the hex code #faf3ce identifies:
$5M - $100M
The color with the hex code #faea96 identifies:
$100M - $250M
The color with the hex code #ffe971 identifies:
$250M - $500M
The color with the hex code #f9c555 identifies:
$500M - $1B

The color with the hex code #f3a43f identifies:
$1B - $2B
The color with the hex code #d27e3f identifies:
$2B - $5B
The color with the hex code #a9512a identifies:
$5B - $10B
The color with the hex code #762212 identifies:
$10B - $20B
The color with the hex code #501011 identifies:
$20B - $50B

Number of Weeks Area Was in Drought

The color with the hex code #fff identifies:
0
The color with the hex code #ffee70 identifies:
5
The color with the hex code #fcdd60 identifies:
10
The color with the hex code #facd52 identifies:
15
The color with the hex code #f7be43 identifies:
20
The color with the hex code #f5af36 identifies:
25

The color with the hex code #e69729 identifies:
30
The color with the hex code #cc781f identifies:
35
The color with the hex code #b35915 identifies:
40
The color with the hex code #9c400e identifies:
45
The color with the hex code #822507 identifies:
50
The color with the hex code #6b0000 identifies:
52
Source(s):

NCEI

Updates Quarterly  -  01/10/21
Updates Weekly  -  01/19/21

Drought Impacts by State and U.S. Drought Monitor Category

No two states experience the same set of impacts during a drought. Drought in Alaska looks different than drought in Arizona. The following state-specific drought impacts were compiled by the National Drought Mitigation Center. While these impacts are not exhaustive, they can help provide a clearer picture of drought across the United States. 

How Drought Impacts the United States

D0 - Abnormally Dry
  • Short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops or pastures.
  • Some lingering water deficits
  • Pastures or crops not fully recovered
18.0
of U.S.
D1 - Moderate Drought
  • Some damage to crops, pastures
  • Streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent
  • Voluntary water-use restrictions requested
10.5
of U.S.
D2 - Severe Drought
  • Crop or pasture loss likely
  • Water shortages common
  • Water restrictions imposed
9.3
of U.S.
D3 - Extreme Drought
  • Major crop/pasture losses
  • Widespread water shortages or restrictions
9.9
of U.S.
D4 - Exceptional Drought
  • Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses
  • Shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies
7.8
of U.S.