JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than half of the state is in a drought, and the concern state agencies have, is that it’s only June.
Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order this week declaring a drought alert for 60 counties. This order activates the Drought Assessment Committee, overseen by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The committee is made up of federal and state agencies. The group will design a plan to help communities and the agricultural industry if this dry spell continues.
“When we see these kinds of drought conditions in the late spring, it really causes concern about what we might see yet in the year,” Director of DNR Dru Buntin said. “Typically, this time of year is the wetter time of year.”
This executive order comes after a good portion of the state also experienced a drought last fall and into winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of central Missouri are in an extreme drought, others in the state are seeing a severe and moderate drought.
“When you look at the impacts that we see early on in a drought like this, it tends to affect livestock producers quite a bit,” Buntin said. “When you have ponds and you rely on that as a watering source for your animals.”
Buntin said when the committee meets next Wednesday, members will discuss resources the state can offer to the agriculture industry.
“We’re also looking at the water supply in state parks, where we can open a lake or pond in a state park for somebody that wants to come in and pump and haul water,” Buntin said. “It really can have a significant impact on those producers.”
Last year’s drought left little to no grass in some areas for livestock and dried up ponds. Buntin said if this drought continues, expect the navigation season along the rivers to be shortened.
“We have fairly low reservoirs, and we’re already seeing reduces and releases from those upstream reservoirs because of the drought in the upper basin,” Buntin said.
With current dry conditions affecting many parts of the state, Buntin said at this time, Missourians don’t have to be concerned about running out of water.
“I don’t think worried or concerned, but we need to be vigilant, we need to make sure that we’re looking at what those impacts are,” Buntin said. “We’re not at a point of alarm in terms of drinking water supply.”
After the committee meets Wednesday in Jefferson City, members will then give recommendations to the governor next Friday. Some solutions in the past have been a hay lottery program, opening public waters for livestock and easing hay hauling restrictions.
Missouri residents are encouraged to submit information about the local drought conditions online. Buntin said this can help the committee create more accurate maps, allowing members to work better with state and federal partners.
The executive order is set to expire on Dec. 1, unless otherwise extended.
DNR also has a variety of resources online and continues to add information on drought mitigation and assistance opportunities.