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Drought can cause significant human health outcomes that can challenge public health departments, emergency managers, and healthcare providers. Drought can lead to decreased water quantity and quality, increased incidence of illness or disease, increased mortality rates, and adverse mental health outcomes as livelihoods are challenged.

Public Health and Drought Conditions

This map shows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's 2018 Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) designations alongside current drought conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM). The SVI uses 15 U.S. census variables at tract level (e.g., poverty, lack of vehicle access, crowded housing) to help local officials identify communities that may need support in preparing for or recovering from hazards, like drought. Learn more.

This map shows current National Weather Service Heat Advisories, Excessive Heat Watches, and Excessive Heat Warnings alongside drought conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor. View all current warnings on Weather.gov.

Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)

The color with the hex code #225ea8 identifies:
High SVI areas in drought

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4

Heat Warnings

The color with the hex code #b64e6d identifies:
Areas under Heat Advisories
The color with the hex code #6e3a9a identifies:
Areas under Excessive Heat Warnings
The color with the hex code #36185e identifies:
Areas under Excessive Heat Watches

U.S. Drought Monitor

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
D2
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4
6.82
%
of counties in Moderate to Exceptional (D1-D4) Drought also have high Social Vulnerability risk
37
National Weather Service heat warnings
36
counties with active wildfires
39
heat-based deaths in 2020
Key Issues

Water Quality and Quantity

Drought can reduce the water supply that serves not only households and businesses, but also at-risk populations. Droughts can also lead to compromised water quality due to factors like increased salinity, increased algal production, less dilution, and reduced oxygen levels in the water system.

Air Quality

During drought, there is an increased risk for wildfires and dust storms. Particulate matter from these events can irritate bronchial passages and lungs and exacerbate chronic heart and lung conditions.

Increased Incidence of Illness and Disease

Drought often results in drier conditions, which can increase the risk of disease. For example, drier conditions can increase reproduction of a fungus found in soils and lead to the disease coccidioidomycosis, or Valley fever.

Mental Health Impacts

Drought and its economic consequences can lead to increased mental health impacts, including mood disorders, substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide.

Related Content

Data & Maps | Public Health

View datasets and maps that show drought-related impacts on public health.

Data & Maps | Fire

Drought can increase the risk of wildfire, which can negatively impact air quality. View datasets and maps on current and predicted outlooks for fire risk, potential, and occurrence.