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Low snowpack, rain, streamflow lead Missouri to extend drought alert through summer

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(The Center Square) – Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson extended an executive order through Sept. 1 to provide government resources and coordination in response to ongoing drought conditions throughout the state.

The drought alert began in late May last year and was scheduled to expire in November. However, it was extended until May of this year. A previous drought alert lasted from July 2022 until March 2023.

Eleven of Missouri’s 114 counties are experiencing severe drought, 71 counties are experiencing moderate drought and 86 are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

“Issuing a drought alert last spring was quite unprecedented, and unfortunately, the reality is we’re facing conditions worse now than a year ago,” Parson said in a statement. “We welcome what rain Missouri has received in recent weeks, but this drought alert will continue so long as Missouri’s farmers and ranchers are struggling from the effects of prolonged dryness and concerns persist over commercial navigation along our riverways.”

The state and federal response to the drought will be coordinated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Drought Assessment Committee. Earlier this month, the committee recommended extending the drought alert. Unseasonably warm weather, dry conditions, low water levels and flow in Missouri streams and a lack of snowpack in the plains and mountains were listed by the committee as reasons for extending the alert through the summer.

While precipitation has been typical based on historical trends, the amount along with groundwater and streamflow aren’t at a level to lift the state out of the drought. North of the state, low amounts of snowpack melting into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is a factor.

“In southern Missouri, areas of drought expanded on the map where dry conditions have prevailed in the shorter term (past 30-90 days) and have led to a significant decline in streamflow levels with numerous rivers and creeks reporting very low flows during the past week (below the 10th percentile), according to the U.S. Geological Survey,” the U.S. Drought Monitor stated in its weekly report.

The Drought Monitor report also stated very low soil moisture levels are appearing.

The Drought Assessment Committee will continue to bring together public and private agencies to collaborate on solutions to drought-related problems. Emergency water pumping and harvesting of hay on public land will continue to be available to farmers, including at select state parks and conservation areas. The Department of Transportation continues to offer permits for over-width loads to allow large quantities of hay to be transported.

The Soil and Water Conservation Commission allocated $3.6 million to landowners to deal with the effects of the drought. Soil and Water Conservation districts will receive money for soil and water resiliency measures.

The University of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Agriculture have developed hay directories to help farmers and ranchers locate hay for livestock.

Dry conditions create a higher risk of wildfires and the Missouri Department of Conservation is providing information on fire prevention. The Department of Natural Resources is monitoring drinking water reservoir systems to ensure operating capacities remain steady.

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