Drought conditions have persisted in Oklahoma for two years, which has had wide-ranging effects on the economy and the budgets of both state and local governments.
According to estimates by researchers at Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma has suffered $2 billion in losses from the 2011 and 2012 drought.
Other states are suffering from the drought, too, which is the worst since 1956, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The effects of the drought are especially fierce in farm states like Oklahoma, where the legacy and memories of the 1930s Dust Bowl still lingers.
The 2010/2011 drought began in the fall of 2010 and lasted through summer 2011. The current drought settled over Oklahoma in early summer, and now “extreme” or “exceptional” drought conditions now cover almost the entire state, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Economically, agriculture has been most directly impacted by the drought. Oklahoma farmland is almost entirely non-irrigated, so farmers here depend on rainfall for crops, many of which have withered.
Oklahoma’s biggest cash crop — wheat — was spared by a wetter-than-expected spring in 2012, but the drought is threatening other crops like cotton, soybeans, hay and pecans. Wells are drying up, ranchers are worried about livestock, and the impact is now spreading related industries — like crop dusting — and measured in lagging equipment sales and layoffs.
Drought conditions have also magnified the effects of recent wildfires, which are taxing county and municipal budgets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January 2013 issued disaster declarations for all 77 Oklahoma counties.
The declaration — the agency’s first for 2013 — makes low-interest loans available to farmers in 597 counties nationwide, the Tulsa World reports.
Action To Protect Small Creek Pits Mining Companies Against Oklahoma Community Worried About Water Supply
Pennington Creek in south-central Oklahoma is the only source of drinking water for the town of Tishomingo. Residents there are worried limestone mining operations threaten the creek. Now, the city council is taking on the companies doing the digging.
In a statement summarizing February’s weather highlights and looking ahead to March, State Climatologist Gary McManus says the first two months of 2017 broke the record for the warmest combined January and February in state history.
The crippling five-year drought Oklahoma finally broke out of in 2015 is still fresh in the memory of the state’s water regulators, which is looking for ways the state can better withstand future dry spells.
With 95-percent of the state under drought conditions, Oklahoma has been issued its first ever national fire advisory from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Drought is back in Oklahoma. More than half the state now falls in the extreme drought category, and normally water-rich southeast Oklahoma is bearing the brunt of a very dry fall and winter.
There’s no way to be sure what the situation will be in the months and years ahead, but some signs are giving us hints, and scientists are worried.
Oklahoma’s lakes drive millions of dollars of tourism to otherwise impoverished parts of the state. But the local economy around Sardis Lake is missing out.
It was just a few months ago when lakes across western Oklahoma were drying up, and the prospects for relief from five years of drought were desperately poor.