Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of any drought conditions as of March 21, 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)*.

*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. 


The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is developing an updated drought mitigation and response plan that will help guide future statewide, multi-entity drought response efforts. The plan is designed to aid government officials, water users and water suppliers in planning and responding to droughts in Missouri. The public comment period for the proposed plan ended Feb. 7, 2023. The department is currently reviewing any comments that were received. The plan is anticipated to be finalized soon.


All Missouri counties are experiencing some level of dryness, with the most intense being felt in west and southwest Missouri. Photographs submitted to CMOR, showing drought-related impacts across Missouri, are available in the department's 2022 Missouri Drought album. The Drought Assessment Committee continues to further coordinate drought response actions.

Drought Plan

As described in the Missouri Drought Plan, Missouri’s Drought Response System has been divided into four 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 four phases, which guide state-level government actions and responsibilities, include:

  • Phase 1 – Advisory Phase: When climate and weather indicators signal that dry conditions and drought are possible in the coming months, the Climate and Weather Committee (CWC) notifies the MoDNR Department Director that conditions warrant activation of the Drought Assessment Committee (DAC).
  • Phase 2 – Drought Alert: Activated either when the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) reads -1.0 to -2.0 and streamflow, reservoir levels and groundwater levels are below normal over a several-month period, or the CWC determines Phase 2 actions are required. The MoDNR Department Director will request the governor make a drought declaration for the counties or regions of the state experiencing drought conditions. In the event of a Phase 2 – Drought Alert declaration, the Drought Assessment Committee will be convened to further coordinate drought response actions.
  • Phase 3 – Conservation Phase: Activated when PDSI is between -2.0 and -4.0; the DAC determines Phase 3 actions are required; streamflow, reservoir levels and groundwater levels continue to decline; and forecasts indicate an extended period of below-normal precipitation.
  • Phase 4 – Drought Emergency: Activated when PDSI exceeds -4.0 or when the DAC determines Phase 4 activities are required. The MoDNR Department Director will request the governor issue a drought emergency declaration.

While the PDSI and streamflow, reservoir and groundwater levels have served as the triggers for moving from one drought phase to the next, in practice, MoDNR has more recently considered other indices to monitor drought conditions across the state. The agency has also considered short-term weather forecasts for signs of possible emerging drought. 

Missouri Conditions

Nationwide Conditions


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 available to assist our communities. Any additional resources will be added as they become available.


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

  • 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. For information about the application deadline and which Missouri counties are currently eligible, visit the USDA's Emergency Designations webpage. 
  • 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.
  • MU Extension is holding several drought recovery meetings to assist farmers and ranchers. Topics include hay quality issues, alternative feeds, feeding silage and more. For additional information, visit MU Extension's Events webpage.
  • U.S. Senator Roy Blunt launched a Drought Resources webpage to provide information about U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs to support farmers and ranchers impacted by drought. Please contact Senator Blunt if you need any additional assistance. Residents of southeast Missouri can contact his Cape Girardeau office at 573-334-7044. Southwest Missouri residents can contact his Springfield office at 417-877-7814.
  • Water Access Locations Viewer - Interactive map showing available water sources for farmers. Producers will need to obtain a special use permit when pumping from a conservation area. Those contacts are included in the map.
  • 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.
  • Hay Directory - Missouri Department of Agriculture
  • MoDOT Carrier Express - Request a special overwidth hauling permit to help farmers and ranchers move hay as needed. In order to have the fee waived, customers can call in when submitting their application or put a comment on the application about the fee waiver to have the agent waive the fee.
  • The Soil and Water Districts Commission approved the following variances that can be offered to help farmers. To learn more about these variances, contact your local soil and water conservation district.
    • Grant a variance allowing immediate grazing in any of the livestock excluded areas provided the area is established in forages that can withstand grazing. 
    • Defer the grazing school requirement for 12 months after contract payment for the water development and water distribution grazing system practices. Limit the water distribution contracts to one tank and needed pipeline from the water source. The rest of the system will need to be installed per policy after the landowner has completed an approved grazing school. 
    • Reinstate the pond cleanout program, used in 2018, on ponds installed with state cost-share assistance. The sediment in the pond must be completely removed. A flat rate of $1,500 per half acre (up to 2 acres) will be paid. The maximum cost-share provided will be $6,000, regardless of the size of the pond. A 10-year maintenance commitment for the pond will be reinstated from the date of payment. 
    • Grant a variance to the cover crop practice allowing cover crops to be harvested for livestock feed at termination providing additional forages and waive the two production crop rotation requirement for the next planted production crop. Temporarily remove the lifetime maximum for the operators planning to harvest the forage for feed, which would allow assistance to anyone that has reached the current $20,000 lifetime maximum. Landowners exceeding the $20,000 maximum will receive $30 per acre for any additional acres enrolled. Other requirements in the policy still apply. 
  • 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.


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

Past Droughts

2018 Drought

Missouri map with county lines and different colors to indicate the intensity of drought conditions on Aug. 14, 2018
Click to view a larger version of this image.

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

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.