Drought Impacts

Drought leads to enormous impacts. A few examples of the impact of drought include:

Drought Episodes

  • The southern regions of the Canadian Prairies are more susceptible to drought because of their highly variable precipitation.
  • During the past two centuries, at least 40 droughts have occurred in western Canada with multi-year episodes being observed in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1980s.
  • Prolonged droughts are among Canada’s costliest natural disasters and have major impacts on a wide range of sectors including agriculture, recreation, tourism, health, industry, the energy sector (hydro-electricity), and forestry.
  • Long-lasting impacts include soil degradation by wind erosion and the deterioration of grasslands, which could take decades or more to recover.

1999-2004/2005 Drought

  • Drought is a major concern in Canada but rarely has it been as serious or extensive as the 1999-2004 episode. This event produced the worst drought in over a hundred years in parts of Canada and in particular, the Canadian Prairies.
  • Precipitation was well below normal in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan for more than four consecutive years, extending from autumn 1999 to spring 2004.
  • In 2001, Saskatoon was 30% drier than in any year since 1891.

The Impact on Canadian Economy in 2001-2002

  • A preliminary analysis of the 2001 and 2002 drought years in Canada suggests the Gross Domestic Product lost some $5.8 billion in 2001 and 2002, with the largest loss – more than $3.6 billion – occurring in 2002.
  • Over 41,000 jobs were lost due to drought during 2001 and 2002.
  • Drought contributed to a negative or zero net farm income for several provinces, for the first time in 25 years (Statistics Canada, 2003). Agricultural production over Canada dropped by an estimated $3.6 billion in 2001-2002.
  • In May 2002, the number of recorded natural Prairie ponds was the lowest since record keeping began
  • In 2002, the incidence of forest fires in Alberta increased to five times the ten-year average.
  • Between April and September 2001, at least 32 incidents of massive dust storms with associated traffic accidents, were reported in Saskatchewan. The blowing dust may have been a contributing factor in two fatalities associated with these accidents.