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Over one-quarter of Wisconsin remains in at least moderate drought

One month ago, more than half of the state was experiencing moderate to extreme drought.
One month ago, more than half of the state was experiencing moderate to extreme drought.(WMTV/Sanika Bhargaw)
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 3:56 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - As of July 20, over a quarter of Wisconsin is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions.

That’s a steady decrease from over half of the state experiencing some form of drought in June.

According to the latest drought monitor provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, 28.15% of the state is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions, including at least part of 32 of the state’s 72 counties. Included in that total is 2.82% of the state currently experiencing severe drought conditions, including the western portion of Polk and Burnett counties in northwestern Wisconsin and part or all of Grant, Kenosha, Lafayette, Racine, Rock, and Walworth counties in southern Wisconsin. For the first time since early June, no counties are in extreme drought.

A moderate drought indicates dry or very dry topsoil, which damages some plants, crops and pastures, creates water shortages, and some voluntary water-use restrictions are requested. A severe drought indicates that pasture and crop losses are likely if conditions persist, and water restrictions have historically been enacted due to water shortages as water shortages are common during moderate drought periods. While no counties are currently at this stage, extreme drought results in major damage to crops, pastures, and widespread water shortages, as well as fish kills being reported in shallower bodies of water, especially for pike species.

A map and data table showing drought conditions in Wisconsin as of July 20, 2021.
A map and data table showing drought conditions in Wisconsin as of July 20, 2021.(US Drought Monitor)

According to the United States Drought Monitor operated by the United States Dept. of Agriculture and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, nearly all of Minnesota and over half of Iowa are experiencing moderate to extreme drought.

Some of the historic impacts of the dry conditions in parts of Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, include bans on burning, brown lawns and fields, lower lake levels than normal, an increase in watering landscaping and gardens, and slight impacts to pastures and crops. At the moderate drought stage, hay prices historically begin to rise, and horse sales begin to increase. Severe drought impacts could include the loss of crops and pastures, as well as water restrictions and shortages. Extreme droughts, which are not currently present in the state, have led to widespread watering bans in the past, as well as long-term crop and pasture damage, as well as fish kills being reported in shallower bodies of water. There are no recorded historical impacts for exceptional drought in the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The USDA estimates the affected population in Wisconsin in drought areas to be over 3.3 million residents, with over 12.1 million in the Midwest currently in a drought area. Conditions in large portions of the western United States are worse, currently in exceptional drought.

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