National Drought Mitigation Center
NDMC Drought Impact Reporter

Condition Monitoring Reports

To understand the impacts of drought on plants, animals and people, it is very helpful to monitor conditions regularly, whether the weather is wet or dry. That way we know how a drought year differs from a normal year, and we learn how different plants and animals go into and come out of drought. Regular condition monitoring can also help identify expected seasonal changes versus changes caused by unseasonal wet or dry conditions. This type of monitoring can also help us start to identify long-term or cumulative effects of drought.

It would be ideal if you decide to report on a single indicator at regular intervals, such as every month or season. You can also include other information in your report, but we’d really like to have a continuous set of observations about a single indicator. It might be easiest to do ongoing reporting if it’s something you can quantify, such as the height of corn, or the number of customers at a water-related outfitter. If you have questions or would like to organize a network of observers, please contact Kelly Helm Smith, ksmith2@unl.edu, 402-472-3373.

Ideas for what to monitor the condition of fall into several categories, sometimes more than one:

  1. Plants & Wildlife
    1. Height or density of natural vegetation, one particular plant or a patch
    2. Presence or absence of a certain kind of plant, including invasive species
    3. Landscape or garden plants, height, progression through growth cycles
      1. Ex: Frequency of lawn mowing
    4. Whether landscape or garden plants need watering
      1. Brown spots on lawns
    5. How close wildlife are coming to human populations in search of food and water
      1. Ex: Frequency of deer in yards
      2. Ex: Number of bears looking for food or water
    6. Number of animals or species species at a drinking water source
      1. Ex: Number of birds or species at birdbath or feeder
    7. Presence or absence of aquatic species at a favorite fishing hole; number or size of a certain species; number of species counted
    8. Presence or absence of mosquitoes, grasshoppers, other insects with life-cycles related to dry and wet weather
  2. Agriculture
    1. Irrigated crop progress, appearance
    2. Unirrigated crop progress, appearance
    3. Availability or quality of forage or hay for livestock
    4. Availability of water for livestock
    5. Availability of water for irrigation
  3. Water Supply & Quality
    1. Water supply quality and quantity for human consumption: Need to haul or boil water
    2. Water quality and characteristics: Changes in taste, odor, color, chemical content (if a well is tested regularly)
    3. Municipal supply: Voluntary or mandatory watering restrictions
    4. Availability of water for livestock
    5. Availability of water for irrigation
  4. Recreation & Tourism
    1. Water-based recreation: Number of people boating, canoeing, swimming, fishing at a certain spot
    2. Outdoor recreation: Number of people hiking, camping, etc.
  5. Society & Public Health
    1. Water supply quality and quantity for human consumption: Need to haul or boil water
    2. Air quality related to dust, aerosols, smoke: Whether outdoor activities are accessible or need to be curtailed due to air quality
    3. Mood: How do you or the people around you -- farmers, ranchers, neighbors, family, etc. -- sound when talking about the weather? You could describe the mood in words such as normal, glad, amazed, depressed, scared, or relieved. Or you could use a scale such as 1 to 10, with 1 being “very unpleasant” and 10 being “very pleasant.”
  6. Business & Industry
    1. Pounds of bait sold>
    2. Number or quality of fish catch, or the need to diversify species or business activities
    3. Number of watercraft rented (canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats)
    4. Effects on landscaping business, such as number of plants replaced or planted, people employed
    5. Prices or availability of agricultural products
    6. High or low irrigation costs
  7. Relief, Response & Restrictions
    1. Presence or absence of burn bans or fireworks bans
    2. Presence or absence of watering restrictions