Drought in Agriculture

Prolonged periods of dry weather can cause crop damage and shortages in the water supply for livestock. Read on to learn how to manage and develop strategies to use water more efficiently.

Drought management

There are different aspects of farm management during drought, such as:

  • Livestock management
  • How to assess your soil water storage capacity
  • Fertilizer management under drought conditions
  • Irrigation management when water supplies are short
  • Crop selection and management

Legal restrictions

Before working in and around water bodies, please be aware of legal restrictions that may apply.*

Quick Guide to Drought Resources

Please refer to the guide below for drought resources that provide information and guidance to help producers prepare and manage drought. 

Livestock management during droughts

Prolonged drought can place a strain on the water resources available to producers and may leave livestock with poor quality water, resulting in lower weight gains, sickness, and leading to herd reduction or movement.

The link below provides livestock watering information for planning and constructing both summer and winter watering systems.

The following manual helps guide agricultural producers in the proper construction and maintenance of a dugout:

Drought impacts on soil

The primary impact of drought on a crop is a reduction in yield. Therefore, if drought is anticipated, you should plan your fertilizer program accordingly:

Learn about tillage practices and crop residue management and how these affect the way water moves into and off of the soil:

Effective water and irrigation management

The following Drought Management information assists irrigated forage crop producers to effectively plan and manage during drought conditions.  Learn how to make the most efficient use of limited irrigation supplies by planning how you manage during drought conditions:

Why plan for drought if you irrigate? Unfortunately, drought can affect irrigated crop production, although with less frequency and impact than dryland production.  Learn more:

The right management of limited water supplies can mitigate negative impacts of drought on alfalfa yield and quality:

Key Points on forage crops and effective water use:

When irrigation water is limited due to drought, a decision will have to be made to irrigate all acres with reduced water, or part of the acreage with the full water required, leaving some acres as dryland. Read more for help in making these decisions:

When irrigation water is limited due to drought conditions, producers may need to change their cropping program to get the most yields possible from limited water:


* Before working in and around water bodies, please be aware of legal restrictions that may apply. In British Columbia, ownership of surface water is vested in the province. In most jurisdictions, municipal and provincial, there may be requirements for minimum setback distances from public roadways, as well as permit or license requirements for the drawing or storage of water. Please consult appropriate authorities to ensure compliance with existing regulations. Provincial contacts can be found at: