Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of any drought conditions as of Dec. 5, 2023
For details about the drought intensities shown in this map, visit U.S. Drought Monitor - Missouri

The amount of precipitation in a particular area varies from year to year, but over a period of years the average amount is fairly constant. A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems and other issues. When little or no rain falls, soils can dry out, plants can die and livestock can suffer. When dry weather persists, stream and river flows can decline, water levels in lakes and reservoirs can fall and water in wells and aquifers can decline. Drought can have a serious impact on health, agriculture, economies, energy and the environment.

Droughts can develop quickly or gradually over several weeks, months or even years, and worsened with extreme heat or wind. A drought can end just as quickly or gradually as it began, but more commonly persist for months. A single rainstorm may provide temporary relief, but its impact is short term. Thunderstorms often produce large amounts of rain in a very short time, causing the rain to run off into streams rather than soak into the ground. Several soaking rains may be required to recharge groundwater and break a drought.

Reporting Drought Conditions

Reports and photographs are essential tools used to assess drought conditions. The department encourages the public to submit information and photographs about conditions in their area in order to help local, state and national decision-makers assess drought conditions and impacts in Missouri. If you would like to submit drought-related conditions and impacts for your area, please fill out the survey form at Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR)*

Tips and best practices for using CMOR, including how to download and use its field app, can be found in the CMOR troubleshooting guide. Please note, those uploading photos to CMOR using newer iPhones will need to change their photo format settings to “most compatible” to successfully add images. Users also don’t need a user account to submit CMOR reports, and can “continue without logging in” to proceed.

*The survey is a nationwide service developed by the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska, in partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

News

Assistance

The more proactive we are, the better we can help our farmers and citizens lessen the impact of even the most severe droughts. Listed below are resources currently available to assist our communities. Any additional resources will be added as they become available.

Water Supply

For water supply concerns or questions, systems should contact MoDNR’s Public Drinking Water Branch or Water Protection Program for more information.

  • Water Supply Emergency Waiver - A fast track waiver may be obtained by public water supply systems permitting construction of infrastructure ensuring a sufficient supply of safe water to customers.

Agriculture

Landowners should contact their local county soil and water conservation district office for additional information and assistance. 

  • In response to worsening drought conditions throughout the state, emergency hay and water is available for family farms at Missouri state parks and Missouri Department of Conservation areas.
    • Water Access Locations Viewer - Missouri Department of Conservation's Interactive map showing available water sources for farmers at 36 conservation areas. Water is accessible during normal operational hours. Contacting MDC area managers before collecting water from conservation areas is required. Those contacts are included in the map. 
    • Drought Assistance -  Missouri State Parks is providing free access to 25 boat launch areas to pump water to fill tanks. Water is available for livestock needs only and not for resale. Farmers will need to provide their own pumping and hauling equipment.
    • Almost 700 acres of grassland at 17 Missouri state parks are available for haying. Anyone interested in obtaining hay from these locations can contact the park superintendent. The first person who views the area and wants the hay will be issued a license to cut the hay at no cost. Guidelines and boundaries for cutting the hay on state park property will be provided at that time. Signing a license is required before haying can begin. Missouri State Parks will allow haying on or after June 25, and hay must be removed before Sept. 25. Visit Missouri State Park's Drought Assistance webpage for more information about this opportunity. 
    • In addition to the contracts already in place at many Missouri Department of Conservation areas across the state, other opportunities to cut hay on conservation areas might be available to assist farmers in need of hay to harvest. Anyone wanting to inquire about cutting hay on conservation areas should contact their regional MDC office
  • The Soil and Water Districts Commission approved the same policy variances that were offered to help farmers in 2022. For drought-related impacts to forages, the commission also granted a variance to its reseeding policy giving additional time to reseed. To learn more about these variances, contact your local soil and water conservation district.
  • Hay Directory - Missouri Department of Agriculture
  • Landowners wanting information about incorporating warm-season native grasses into their grazing systems can contact their local Missouri Department of Conservation office or MU Extension office. More information about the grazing benefits of native warm-season grasses can be found at mdc.mo.gov.
  • USDA Drought Resources - Has your agricultural operation been impacted by drought? USDA offers programs that can help with recovery as well as those that can help you manage risk and build resilience on your operation. Visit the USDA's Service Center Locator webpage to find your county’s contact or service center office. 
  • Emergency Farm Loans - The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency's Emergency Loan Program is available to help eligible farmers and ranchers rebuild and recover from sustained losses. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs, including replacing essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganizing a farming operation or refinancing certain debts. Visit the USDA's national Emergency Designations webpage for more information on the disaster declaration process. 
  • Tax implications of forced cattle sales amid drought - Drought and high feed prices forced many producers to sell off part of their beef herd to survive. Congress recognizes the impact weather can have on producers, and has two special tax provisions to reduce income tax liabilities. However, consult your income tax professional first to assess your situation because it might cost you more in the future.
  • Feeling the weight of farm stress? Get confidential support 24/7 from friendly specialists who understand agriculture through the Missouri Department of Agricultures' AgriStress Helpline.
  • How to Protect Livestock from Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) - Freshwater harmful algal blooms can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, livestock, working animals, and pets. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has several conservation practices that may be useful in protecting animals and people by restricting access to contaminated water or providing alternate water sources.

General

Drought may require safety precautions just like other weather hazards. Hot, dry conditions can cause an increased risk for other hazards as well. 

Drought Plan

After more than two years of study and development, the department replaced the previous 2002 Drought Plan with the 2023 Missouri Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, which uses modern tools for enhanced monitoring and assessment of all types of droughts. It also gives everyone from government officials, to water users, water suppliers and leaders of industry guidance for adopting water conservation best practices to grow their drought resiliency. The main goals of the Missouri Drought Mitigation and Response Plan are serving as an information source for reducing drought impacts, increasing public awareness, enhancing resiliency, promoting water conservation, improving monitoring, facilitating response planning, as well as clarifying roles and responsibilities.

A key component of the Missouri Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is a matrix of drought mitigation actions and strategies. The matrix of over 100 actions and strategies is intended to aid state, federal, and local government officials; commercial, industrial, and private water users; and public and private water suppliers in both planning for and responding to drought events in Missouri. Some of the actions and strategies presented in the matrix have already been implemented and have been proven to be useful in mitigating impacts. Others should be considered for implementation prior to or in response to future droughts.

As described in the plan, Missouri’s Drought Response System has been divided into five phases to provide for a measured response to worsening effects of drought, typically on a county-by-county basis. This drought monitoring and assessment system provides for state and local planners to proactively coordinate and take action to raise awareness and mitigate the effects of drought. The five phases, which guide state-level government actions and responsibilities, include:

  • Phase 0 – Advisory Phase: MoDNR, in consultation with the State Climatologist, conducts weekly reviews of the drought indices and indicators, and other climate conditions and forecasts. The advisory phase continues if indices and indicators show no evidence of emerging drought conditions.
  • Phase 1 – Incipient Phase: When climate forecasts and primary indices and indicators signal that dry conditions are possible in the coming months, MoDNR activates the Climate and Weather Committee (CWC) and notifies the MoDNR department director that a worsening of conditions may warrant activation of the Drought Assessment Committee (DAC). Emerging or rapidly changing conditions, as observed using the secondary indices, can also trigger movement into this phase and the potential activation of the DAC at the discretion of the director. Incipient phase conditions correlate to the USDM D0 category representing abnormally dry conditions. Monitoring and consideration of the indices and indicators should accelerate if conditions approach or enter the alert phase.
  • Phase 2 – Alert Phase: The alert phase is declared when the CWC recognizes worsening but still moderate drought conditions. The MoDNR department director requests the governor make a drought declaration for the counties or regions of the state experiencing alert phase drought conditions, which correlate to the USDM D1 category representing moderate drought. The declaration of a drought alert by the governor directs state agencies to work together in providing as many resources and as much assistance as possible to impacted communities. The DAC is activated and populated by representatives from key state and federal agencies and supported by input from stakeholders representing impacted counties or regions. Impact teams (ITs) may be formed to interact with key stakeholders and assist in data gathering and review. 
  • Phase 3 – Conservation Phase: The conservation phase is declared when the CWC recognizes worsening drought conditions and forecasts indicate an extended period of below-normal precipitation, suggesting actions to conserve water are warranted. The MoDNR department director requests the governor make a drought declaration for the counties or regions of the state experiencing conservation phase drought conditions, which correlate to the USDM D2 category representing severe drought. The DAC empowers the ITs to encourage impacted areas to implement water conservation and take other plan-recommended actions and strategies to reduce demand and conserve supplies.
  • Phase 4 – Drought Emergency: The emergency phase is declared when the drought conditions enter the USDM D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) categories and forecasts indicate continued below-normal precipitation, suggesting emergency actions are necessary to support essential water uses and protect public health. The MoDNR department director may request the governor make a drought declaration for the counties or regions of the state experiencing emergency phase conditions. The governor activates the Drought Executive Committee independently or upon recommendation of the DAC. The Missouri Department of Agriculture may draft an executive order for an agricultural disaster declaration and a Health and Public Safety Declaration may be drafted by the Missouri Emergency Management Association.

Missouri Conditions

Nationwide Conditions

Past Droughts

2022 Drought 

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Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of drought conditions on Oct. 18, 2022
Click to view a larger version of this image.

Missouri’s drought of 2022 impacted both Missouri agriculture and navigation on the Missouri River. Abnormally dry conditions extended through summer 2023 in southern Missouri, with dry conditions re-emerging in fall 2022 in west and southwest Missouri. The entire state experienced abnormal to exceptional drought conditions at its peak. As a result of this drought, the department replaced the 2002 Missouri Drought Plan with the 2023 Missouri Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, to help guide future statewide, multi-entity drought response efforts. The updated plan is designed to aid government officials, water users and water suppliers in planning and responding to droughts in Missouri.

2018 Drought

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Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of drought conditions on Aug. 14, 2018
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Missouri’s drought of 2018 was notable in its localized intensities and its overall impacts to both agriculture and public water supplies. Abnormally dry conditions extended through fall and winter 2017, with dry conditions re-emerging in late spring 2018. Ninety-eight percent of the state experienced dry to exceptional drought conditions at the peak of the 2018 Drought. For more information, review the Drought Assessment Committee's 2018 Drought Response Report.

2012 Drought

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Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of drought conditions on Aug. 21, 2012
Click to view a larger version of this image.

Very little rainfall and record-breaking high temperatures presented Missouri with many challenges in 2012. Missouri’s drought conditions quickly deteriorated after May, when 2% of the state had moderate drought conditions. By June, 99% of the state was abnormally dry or drier, which escalated to extreme drought conditions in August. For more information, review the 2012 Missouri Drought Report.