Droughts occur when an area/region has less rain and snow (precipitation) than normal. Droughts are characterised as meteorological – they are caused by prolonged periods of dryness in weather/climate resulting in:
- Decreases in water resources in rivers, streams, lakes, groundwater, dams and reservoirs.
- Hotter temperatures which increase evaporation of moisture from surface areas, causing soil erosion.
- Insufficient soil moisture for vegetation and crop growth.
- Low water resources: resulting in shortages of clean water for human demands/needs, ecosystems and animal life, infrastructure and development activity, agriculture and livestock, energy production and transport.
Droughts are natural phenomenon that take effect over months, years or decades, and life on earth has adapted to drought for thousands of years.
- As greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere at an increasing rate, the global climate is warming, and causing average temperatures to rise across the whole planet. This causes changes in our weather/climate with much more extreme conditions: hotter and longer heat waves, more wildfires, dust storms and droughts. Extreme storms, heavy rainfall and floods are also more likely after droughts.
- Droughts and water shortages - impacted by less precipitation- have increased in the last 50 years.
- Meteorologists study the impact of the atmosphere on the climate – looking at precipitation patterns, stream flow, and soil moisture over long periods of time to forecast droughts. Droughts manifest in lack of water supply for residential and commercial use – impacting on all social, political and economic activity.
- Long term drought causes water shortages and can lead to water pollution, while also increasing food insecurity and the risk of famine.
- Human health becomes vulnerable to the severe impacts of malnutrition and water borne disease epidemics.
- Animals and plants species die, leading to extinctions and irreversible losses to biodiversity.
- Displacement happens as people migrate from rural to urban areas to access water, food, housing, health services and jobs.
- Social tensions and conflict arise around sharing habitable land and scarce resources – as in urban informal settlements, where housing and water supply is limited.
Source: Drought fact sheet
- Dam levels and water restrictions:
- What to do about drought?