drought

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

J.D. Strong has been an influential leader in Oklahoma water issues for many years, and served as Executive Director of the state water regulator since 2010. Earlier this year he left the Water Resources Board to head the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

StateImpact talked to Strong in his new office to talk about the water challenges that remain and the issues facing wildlife conservation that are now his problem.

"No one can remember a wildfire as peculiar as the monster gnawing through the gorge above the village of Chimney Rock," began an article Monday in the Charlotte Observer.

Large parts of the Southeast are grappling with severe drought.

In some parts of Alabama, there hasn't been any rain in nearly six weeks. Some farmers are selling off cattle because there's not enough hay to feed them over the winter.

It's been a brutal forest fire season in California. But there's actually a greater threat to California's trees — the state's record-setting drought. The lack of water has killed at least 60 million trees in the past four years.

Scientists are struggling to understand which trees are most vulnerable to drought and how to keep the survivors alive. To that end, they're sending human climbers and flying drones into the treetops, in a novel biological experiment.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Heavy rains delayed the 2016 wheat harvest in Oklahoma, but the yield could be better than recent years. Many farmers, however, are still making up losses from a drought that climatologists warn could be returning.

It’s a hot, dry and relatively windless day south of Altus in southwest Oklahoma. Eight to 11 inches of rain has fallen in the area over the last few weeks, and Fred Schmedt is on his cell phone trying to keep large trucks and tractor-trailers off his field.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

After one of the driest periods on record, 2015 was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma, and the rain still hasn’t let up. But scientists say climate conditions are aligning in a way that could bring drought back to the state.

OUT OF DROUGHT

Mason Bolay doesn’t have a lot of time to talk about whether he’s prepared for the next drought. He needs to finish the daily work on his family’s farm outside Perry in north-central Oklahoma before the next thunderstorm moves in.

As Californians hope for rain and snow to end the state's extreme drought, a decades-old rule prohibits reservoirs from filling up in the winter, so some water ends up being released.

The rule may sound odd given how chronically dry California is, but it's actually to prevent a bigger disaster: flooding.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a $1 billion hole in the state budget that has consequences for Oklahoma’s environment and natural resources. A controversial state question could pit farmer against farmer. The ground beneath Oklahoma is shaking — figuratively and literally in 2016 — and StateImpact is on it.

NOT IF, BUT WHEN: PREPARING FOR THE NEXT DROUGHT

 

Flooding December 26-28 caps off a year that saw the Illinois River damaged by extreme rainfall time after time as Oklahoma’s five-year drought gave way to a powerful El Niño that’s been bringing strong storm systems through the state since May 2015.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The biggest news out of the Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference Dec. 1-2 was Governor Mary Fallin’s announcement of a working group to find alternatives to injecting produced water from oil and gas drilling deep into the ground. The goal is to reduce earthquakes, but also save water. 

DROUGHT FORECAST

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