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A drought is natural event, which happens when there is less rainfall than average over an extended time-period for a region.

A drought can result in a shortage of water needed for: basic needs, drinking, and agriculture, and to sustain the current environment. It impacts wildlands such as forests and grasslands and aquifers (groundwater) and surface water sources.

Drought represents a change in distribution of water in the natural water cycle.

Learn about current US conditions.

How long does drought last?

A drought can last for months or years or may be declared after as few as 15 days. What is considered a drought depends on the area and the typical climate of the region.

Drought occurrence in the desert southwest may have a different appearance and subsequently different health consequences compared to drought in a historically wetter state.

New Mexico (NM), has the lowest water to land ratio of all 50 states. Water scarcity and shortage is an issue with which many New Mexicans are familiar. Drought can heavily affect the 121,697 square miles and the people who live in NM.

Learn about precipitation in your community through the New Mexico Climate Center at New Mexico State University.

See the current NM drought monitor map.
Drought can strongly affect our lives because water is such an important part our daily activities. We need water to grow the food we eat, for drinking, bathing and cleaning. When we don't have enough water for these activities, because of a drought, people's health and wellbeing will be affected.

Possible health implications of drought include:
  • Reduced drinking water quality and quantity and stress on water infrastructure systems
  • Effects on air quality
  • Dust and allergen exposure
  • Increase in number of wildfires and smoke exposure
  • Decreased food production
  • Changes in disease patterns
  • Stress or anxiety related to potential economic losses caused by drought

Drought preparedness planning and response involves many entities including: public health professionals and stakeholders, water resource agencies, water utilities, land owners and community members, local and state governments, emergency managers, and others. Learn about community planning for drought and mitigating health effects during drought conditions:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Environmental Health Services- When Every Drop Counts. Planning and Preparedness.
Community water systems have drought plans and management strategies (access to alternative safe water resources) to enable them to maintain supply for their customers during drought conditions.

Private well owners, who maintain their own water supply, do not have these resources or infrastructure. Twenty percent of New Mexican's rely on private well water as their primary drinking water source.

Wells whose depth to water is near the water table, are at increased risk of running dry during droughts (or when groundwater pumping, or mining, increases). During drought, when not being replenish by precipitation, the water table falls and may fall below the level of a well completion depth. If you live in a drought prone area and have a private well, follow these tips to help protect your well and respond should drought occur:
  • Maintaining your private well will help it withstand the stress of drought.
  • Be familiar with and document (photograph) well components should they need replacement.
  • Drought can affect water quality by increasing the concentration of groundwater constituents (chemicals) and changing how groundwater and surface water interact. The best way to determine if any changes in water quality have occurred is to test your well water regularly.
  • Practice water conservation. Some suggestions include:
    • Check for and repair leaking plumbing fixtures.
    • Install water saving plumbing fixtures.
    • Install drip irrigation, water-saving landscaping
    • Install rain sensors or a rainwater harvesting system
    • Spread out your water use over the day (dishwasher, washing machine, shower).
    • Wash full loads in the dishwasher and the washing machine.
    • Water lawns and plants during evening or early morning to reduce evaporation.
    • Take shorter showers
Learn more about protecting your private well before and after drought.
This will depend on the conditions of the drought including:
  • Severity (length) of the drought
  • Are nearby wells affected?
  • Has the well gone dry during past droughts?

Options may include: deepening the well, drilling a new well, or finding an alternate safe source of water (water hauling). Consult a qualified well contractor to determine which solution may be most appropriate for your situation.

Learn more about private wells.
During a drought, well water supplied by groundwater may contain higher levels of constituents present in the local geologic formation, which may degrade water quality. Drought may also change groundwater-surface water interactions which can result in changes in water quality.

The best way to determine if any changes in water quality have occurred is to test your well water. Learn more about private wells testing.
More information is available about drought at local and national levels and about the work being done, around drought, by agencies and communities.
Water Conservation Programs:
Citizen Science and Drought
The Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a community-based network of volunteers that take daily precipitation measurements from home. Learn about CoCoRaHS NM.
The NM EPHT website is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number, 6 NUE1EH001354 (previously, 5 U38EH000949), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 17 January 2022 11:27:22 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:01 MDT