PUBLISHED: 06 November 2014

Environmental Impacts of Drought

Drought - Prairie Burning 
Drought can result in higher incidences of wildfires.
Prairie Burning” by woodleywonderworks is licenced under CC BY 2.0. No changes were made to this image. 

The environment is directly impacted by drought. Drought can affect water sources, land, fish and wildlife and plant communities. 

Drought can result in lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes and ponds, as well as reduced streamflow in rivers. This decrease in available water can also lead to a reduction of some wetlands, groundwater depletion and even impact water quality (e.g. salt concentration can increase).

Inadequate water supply can result in reduced ability for soils to support crops, an increased amount of dust due to dryness, erosion, and a greater chance of wildfires due to the dry landscape.

A lack of water and reduced ability for soil to support crops can affect fish, animals and plant life. Wildlife habitat may become degraded because poor soil quality and inadequate water may affect plant growth, and there may not be enough drinking water for animals. There may also be stress placed on endangered species and a loss of biodiversity in the affected area.

Examples of Environmental Impacts of Drought

Fish and Animals
  • Reduction and degradation of fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Lack of drinking water for livestock and wildlife.
Water Sources
  • Lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds.
  • Reduced streamflow.
  • Reduced soil quality.
  • Increased quantity of dust.
Plant Communities
  • Reduced soil quality.
  • Death of vegetation and trees.