Droughts can compromise a wide range of ecosystem services, including provisioning services such as food, fuel, and freshwater; regulating services such as pollination and pest regulation; and support services such as soil fertility and nutrient cycling. Significant or persistent droughts may alter ecosystem functions and compromise ecosystem goods and services, resulting in diminished or damaged ecological functioning.
Droughts may result in significant, long-term economic losses in a range of sectors. Losses may be local to the drought-affected area or they may be widespread through economic value chains and by cascading losses to other sectors and the national or global economy. In some regions of the world, drought may cause or exacerbate food shortages and food insecurity, unemployment, poverty, inflation, conflict, and internal displacement or migration.
Cultural and Social Impacts
Cultural and social constructs underlie how water is perceived, valued, and managed in different societies. In many cultures and belief systems, water is strongly tied to cultural heritage and religious and spiritual practices. These may inform a social understanding of the causes and solutions for drought and may support communities in coping with drought. Further, drought impacts can vary in severity based on gender, ethnic group, religion, likelihood strategies, and other societal roles and vulnerabilities.
Drought can cause significant human health impacts, and the socioeconomic environment in which drought occurs influences the resilience of affected populations. In poorer or marginalized communities, drought may exacerbate existing health disparities. Drought impacts on food production systems and agricultural value chains can contribute to nutritional deficiencies. Drought can also exacerbate gaps in sanitation and hygiene coverage and reliability, which may disproportionately affect women and girls when they are responsible for household water supply.