San Diego State University defines drought as a weather-related natural disaster. It affects vast regions for months or years. Drought can occur in virtually all climatic zones. Drought should not be confused with aridity. Arid land is land that has very little rainfall. Drought is temporary. Drought has an adverse effect on water supplies. People suffer through all areas of drought. All droughts begin in the summer.
The dangers of summer drought have direct and indirect impacts. Direct impacts are the lack of water for crops, forests and fire hazards. Livestock and wildlife mortality rates increase. Indirect dangers are economic. It affects income for farmers and agribusiness. Food prices rise. The following are the effects both directly and indirectly.
Environmental dangers are the loss of crops, plant species lost, air and water quality. Some of the problems clear up if drought conditions are temporary. Wildlife habitats degrade through the loss of wetlands and lakes. It takes many species a long time to recover and some species may be gone permanently. Soil erosion is another byproduct of summer drought.
Economic impacts occur in the agricultural areas. Drought affects surface and ground water supplies. Crops and livestock production decreases. Droughts bring insect invasions, plant disease and wind erosion of the soil. Forest and range fires increase. The damage from fire is an increased risk for humans, wildlife and livestock.
The ripple effect is that farmers lose income. Retailers who provide products to farmers lose their volume of business. This results in layoffs and higher unemployment. This leads to a short-fall for financial institutions and many credit customers who are unable to meet mortgage or other loans related to their business. Loss of tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments affect social welfare programs. The scarcity of goods leads to higher prices for food, energy and other life necessities. This means that drought areas have to import necessities from outside their area. Transportation of goods has to find alternative ways to move the goods.
Social impacts include a lowered quality of life. Citizens migrating away from the area to find work, add to the burden of the new area. The food supply increases and more water sources need to be found. Migrants add to the population in urban areas. The new migrants do not have jobs and use public funds to survive. Urban areas become impacted and increased pressures on the social infrastructure lead to poverty and crime. After drought conditions subside, exceptionally few people return to their original homes.
The impact of droughts affects all areas of human lives. Drought interrelates with environment, society and economics.