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Drought Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Can you imagine going weeks without rain? What about a month? A year? This is what happens during a drought. Learn what defines a drought, what the effects are, and what you can do to help when a drought happens.

What Is a Drought?

Think about how much you use water throughout the day. You drink water and use it to clean your body and brush your teeth. There are many fun and necessary activities that require water. Can you imagine living without water for a week or longer? Droughts have been occurring for hundreds of years, and still occur in places today. As of 2016, California has been suffering from a drought that began in January 2014.

Droughts take place when an area has less precipitation, which includes rain, snow, sleet or hail, than it normally has over a period of time - long enough to cause a decrease in the water supply. While some droughts are over relatively quickly, others have been known to last for years.

Dust storm during the drought of the 1930s, Texas
A dust storm in Texas, during the Dust Bowl

One of the worst droughts to hit the United States occurred during the 1930s. A severe drought occurred in the southern plains states, including parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Nevada, which lasted for about 10 years. The drought was made worse by the fact that farmers had plowed up so much land that there was no grass to hold it together anymore, causing black dust to fly up anytime there was wind. This was known as the 'Dust Bowl', and it forced thousands of people to flee their homes forever.

Effects of a Drought

Droughts can have an effect on the environment. Animals and plants need water to survive, so an extreme drought will cause them to die. Fruits and vegetables growing in the ground will stop growing, and entire crops can be destroyed because the ground is so dry. Droughts can also cause other environmental disasters, such as wildfires and landslides.

Livestock and other animals can die as a result of drought.
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Droughts can also have an effect on people. Without water, humans are at risk for dehydration (not having enough water to drink), or hunger. Remember - no water means no crops, and this means a decrease in the food supply. Dehydration is a potentially fatal condition, so make sure you are drinking enough water every day to stay healthy.

What Can You Do to Help?

A 1940s ad encouraging people to save water
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