Drought is a natural phenomenon in which rainfall is lower than average for an extended period of time, resulting in inadequate water supply. Drought can lead to public health problems.
Some drought-related health effects are experienced in the short-term and can be directly observed and measured. However, the slow rise or chronic nature of drought can result in longer term, indirect health implications that are not always easy to anticipate or monitor.
Drought can impact surface water quality in many ways. Reduced stream and river flows can increase the concentration of pollutants in water and cause stagnation. Higher water temperatures in lakes and reservoirs lead to reduced oxygen levels, which can affect aquatic life and water quality.
Severe drought conditions can negatively affect air quality. During drought, there is an increased risk for wildfires. Particulate matter suspended in the air from these events can irritate the bronchial passages and lungs. This can make chronic respiratory illnesses worse and increase the risk for respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.