What is a Drought?

A drought occurs when there is very little rainfall or snowfall over an extended period of time. When this happens, rivers and lakes sometimes dry up. Ground water in wells can go away too if we use it up.


Fun Facts

  • Droughts are usually caused by several things, such as weather conditions and high pressure.
  • During a drought, farmers can’t keep plants irrigated. Crops shrivel and dry.
  • People might not have the water they need for drinking, washing, bathing, and cooking.
  • Droughts affect animals too.
  • In some parts of the world, hot, dry temperatures mean the area is almost always in a state of drought.
  • In the U.S., the western states are the driest. They have experienced drought for several years.
  • During the 1930s, the worst drought in U.S. history happened over several years in the Midwest. Crops died and huge dust storms lifted dust in the air, carrying it miles and miles. The dust storms stripped the land of its fertile soil. During a dust storm, humans and animals had a hard time breathing. Many people left their farms and moved west. This event was known as the Dust Bowl and it contributed to the Great Depression.
  • During a drought, it’s especially important to be careful about water use. We can help by planting gardens that don’t need much water. We can take short showers instead of baths. Washing dishes in a dishwasher instead of by hand, using low flow toilets, and wearing clothes more than once before washing those all help conserve water.


Questions and Answers

Question: Do humans cause droughts?

Answer: Humans don’t directly cause droughts but they can make droughts worse. During the 1930s, farmers didn’t know about how to take care of the soil. They plowed up thousands of acres to grow wheat, but didn’t add manure or compost to the soil or rotate crops. The soil became lifeless and infertile because it was overused.

When the dust storms came, this soil was easily carried away. If the soil had been healthy, it would have held water better, allowing plants to grow with less water. Plants cover the soil surface, preventing it from being blown away by winds.


Learn More

Watch a video about Black Sunday, the worst dust storm of the 1930s.