PUBLISHED: 04 November 2014

Impacts of Drought

Drought can have a wide range of impacts on the environment, the economy and on society. Drought becomes most obvious to us when we feel its impacts and consequences, such as municipal watering restrictions or higher food prices. However, drought can have many impacts that are not as noticeable – for example, it may result in changes in water quality, such as increased water temperature and reduced dissolved oxygen, which can affect aquatic organisms. 

The impacts of drought can be direct or indirect. Direct impacts are usually environmental changes that can be directly attributed to drought (e.g. poor soil quality as a result of insufficient soil moisture). Indirect impacts are the consequences of direct impacts (e.g. poor soil quality resulting from lack of moisture may lead to increased food prices, because the soil cannot produce as much crop as usual).

The impacts of drought are related to how severe the drought is, and how long it lasts. If a drought is fairly mild, it may go unnoticed by the majority of people, even though the drought may have negative environmental impacts. 

Some drought impacts may be easily quantified, such as the decrease in water levels in reservoirs or lakes. Other impacts, such as the effect of drought on the stress levels of farmers, may be more difficult to quantify. 

Generally, the impacts of drought are negative. There are a few exceptions, though. For example, a long drought may result in increased awareness of water issues and more efficient water use.