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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.

AirNow reports air quality using the official U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), a color-coded index designed to communicate whether air quality is healthy or unhealthy. This map displays the AQI at sensors across the U.S. alongside the current U.S. Drought Monitor. Air quality data are updated daily at 10 a.m. Eastern. Learn More.

Social Vulnerability Index (SVI)
Value Map Hex Color
High SVI areas in drought #225ea8
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
Heat Warnings
Value Map Hex Color
Areas under Heat Advisories #b64e6d
Areas under Excessive Heat Warnings #6e3a9a
Areas under Excessive Heat Watches #36185e
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
Air Quality: Level of Concern
Value Map Hex Color
Good #01e400
Moderate #ffff00
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups #ff7e00
Value Map Hex Color
Unhealthy #ff0000
Very Unhealthy #8f3f97
Hazardous #7e0023
U.S. Drought Monitor
Value Map Hex Color
D0 #ffff00
D1 #ffcc99
D2 #ff6600
D3 #ff0000
D4 #660000
67.82
%
of counties in Moderate to Exceptional (D1-D4) Drought also have high Social Vulnerability risk
0
National Weather Service heat warnings
451,921
people within 10 miles of an active large wildfire
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.