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Through its work with drought planners around the world, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) has developed a checklist of drought's impacts. The checklist can help planners identify areas of vulnerability so that policy makers can target resources as effectively as possible. Here are some examples of recent and historic U.S. drought impacts.


Damage to animal species

  • Reduction and degradation of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Lack of feed and drinking water for animals
  • Greater mortality due when hungry and thirty animal increasingly try to encroach on farms and home and are hunted
  • More disease
  • Increased vulnerability to predotors living near water
  • Forced migration and concentration; loss of wildlife in some areas and too many wildlife in other areas
  • Increased stress to endangered species
  • Loss of biodiversity

Hydrological effects

  • Lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds
  • Reduced flow from springs
  • Reduced streamflow
  • Loss of wetlands
  • Estuarine impacts such as changes in salinity levels
  • Increased groundwater depletion, land subsidence, reduced recharge
  • Decreased water quality from salt concentration, increased water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, etc.

General economic effects

  • Decreased land prices
  • Loss to industries directly dependent on agricultural production such as machinery and fertilizer manufacturers, food processors, dairies
  • Unemployment from drought-related declines in production
  • Strain on financial institutions: foreclosures, more credit risk, capital shortfalls
  • Revenue losses to federal, state, and local governments from reduced tax base
  • Reduction of economic development
  • Fewer agricultural producers due to bankruptcies and sales
  • Rural population loss
  • Loss to recreation and tourism industry
  • Losses to manufacturers and sellers of recreational equipment
  • Losses related to curtailed activities: hunting and fishing, bird watching, boating, etc.

Energy-related effects

  • Increased energy demand and reduced supply because of drought-related power curtailments
  • Costs to energy industry and consumers associated with substituting more expensive fuels (oil) for hydroelectric power

Water suppliers

  • Revenue shortfalls and/or windfall profits
  • Cost of water transport or transfer
  • Cost of new or supplemental water resource development
Social and Health
  • Mental and physical stress such as anxiety, depression, loss of security, domestic violence
  • Health-related low-water-flow problems such as cross-connection contamination, diminished sewage flows, increased pollutant concentrations, reduced firefighting capability, etc.
  • Nutrition deficiecies caused by higher-cost of food and stress-related dietary deficiencies
  • Loss of human life from from heat stress, suicides and related problems
  • Increased risk to public safety from forest and range fires
  • Increased risk of respiratory ailments due to dust and pollution
  • Increased disease caused by wildlife concentrations
  • Increased conflicts over water use
  • Increased political conflicts over use of water
  • Management conflicts over water use
  • Other social conflicts such as scientific, media-based issues