Navajo Nation Drought

Drought Information
Contingency plan
National Drought Summary
NN Snow Pack Summary
State of Emergency Declaration
MAY Drought Status Report XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Drought Presentations
NN Drought Update
Livestock Management
2002 NN Drought FEMA
2006 Livestock Drought Education Material XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Seasonal Herd Management
West Nile Virus in Livestock
Vesicular Stomatitis in Livestock
Botulism in Horses
Avian Flu (Bird Flu)
Livestock Deaths caused by a Foreign Animal Disease
Navajo Nation Landfill Sites XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

NOAA La Nina Page
What is La Nina


The Navajo Nation’s arid climate is compromised by drought due to the lack of adequate precipitation noticeably evident since 1996 along with increasing warmer temperatures annually. In a recent local newspaper article, it was reported that by the end of April 2006, “Water remaining in reservoirs will be all that’s expected for the remainder of the year in the state of Arizona.” The report also adds that snow pack in the Chuska Mountains measured at 30% of the 30-year average as of April 1, 2006. Snow pack was at 39% of the 30-year average at the San Francisco Peaks and 54% of the 30-year average at the Grand Canyon. These measurements indicate extremely low stream flows this season for Arizona river basins. While the winter storms brought some moisture, rain and snowfall, it is not enough to fill the state’s reservoirs. The dry soils absorbed much of the runoff before the water could reach the streams.

The Commission on Emergency Management reaffirmed the State of Emergency Declaration on March 8, 2006. Based on existing conditions the forecast reflects below normal precipitation and above normal temperature for the next three to six months. The declaration directs implementation of drought responses by all divisions of the Navajo Nation Government, as outlined in the Navajo Nation Drought Contingency Plan. Neighboring states of New Mexico and Arizona have also declared states of emergencies because of the drought.

National Weather Advisories forecast that the warm temperatures will persist due to global warming. We are advised that the effects of storms (i.e. Hurricane Katrina) will intensify when they occur.


The priority of the State of Drought Emergency is as follows: 1. Human life, includes high risk or at risk population. 2. Road Accessibility. 3. Food, water, and medical supplies. 4. Livestock.



  • Water shortages. In some cases depletion of drinking water affecting human lives, and water for livestock.

  • Drought poses health problems such as allergies, dehydration, malnutrition, increasing cases of hantavirus and plague, heat strokes, eye infections, sinus infections, lung infections, mental health problems and possible depletion of drinking water.

  • Forest fires and rangeland fires pose a danger to residents living in the open and in the forest away from housing developments where fire hydrants are available and there is immediate access to rescue operations.

Advisory: Water users in all communities of the Navajo Nation are strongly advised to practice water conservation to avoid unnecessary water shortage. 

  • Water tables drop posing hardships on water suppliers and their equipment.

  • Implementation of water hauling practices to areas that are in extreme need.

  • Declarations of Emergencies allow for cooperative efforts from the state, to the counties and the Navajo Nation relative to drought assistance. The Commission on Emergency Management declared a State of Warning and Preparedness on February 3, 2006. The commission also reaffirmed the Drought State of Emergency declaration from August 2004 on March 8, 2006. The Navajo Nation is in a State of Emergency due to the drought.


Livestock and Wildlife

  • Impacts vegetation and forage for domestic animals and wildlife. Feed programs are often implemented to compensate for the poor condition of rangelands.

  • Occurrence of animal diseases. Ranchers are advised to maintain livestock health through vaccinations. Animals also suffer from dehydration and malnutrition.

  • Invasion of predators on livestock and their presence in nearby communities as they seek food.

  • Livestock and wildlife dependence on water from dams, runoffs, and windmills is affected.

  • Ranchers must practice livestock management by selling older animals and reducing the numbers to stay within the requirements of grazing permits.

All ranchers and landowners should walk the land, see the vegetation, the animals, and practice livestock and range management based on first hand information. Planning is an essential part of this process.

Forest and Rangeland

  • The lack of precipitation increases the potential for forest fires. The Navajo Nation has 597,000 acres of commercial forestland that is predominately Ponderosa Pine, including Aspen, Blue Spruce, Douglas and Cork Bark Fir, and Spruce. The forest includes 4.8 million acres of Pinion and Juniper Woodlands that are used as firewood. These kinds of trees consume tremendous amounts of water; one Pinion or one Juniper consumes 24 gallons of water a day.

  • Drought causes infestation of forest. The bark beetle has destroyed approximately 253,000 acres of forest during the drought. 

  • Rangeland and wild land fires pose an even greater danger to the forestlands. Forest wildlife include small animals and birds, some are endangered species.

The positive side to fires and infestations of the forestlands is the unintentional creation of grasslands and eventual savings of ground water.

  • Other negative impacts of drought include erosion created by lack of vegetation. This increases the potential for flash flooding during the monsoon season. Erosions impacts farming.

  • Invasion of noxious and poisonous plants. Some of these drought hardy plants pose a hazard to animals.



  • Dust pollution contributes to allergies and infections. Dust storms are destructive forces that can dismantle unstable structures and blow off roofs. A strong dust devil and actually pick up a human or small animal.

  • Noxious plant seeds are carried by winds.

  • Water quality impacts – increases in salt concentration.

  • Sanitation issues, people may not practice proper hygiene by not washing hands, food suppliers may not keep utensils clean. Food service areas and restrooms will not be sanitary due to lack of water supply.



  • Farming is diminished. Erosion of farmland occurs. Prices increase due to lower crop yields.


  • Construction activities require a good supply of water.

  • Businesses such as McDonald’s need water for sanitation.

  • Tourism drops and recreational activities such as fishing, lodging and marinas scale back in sales and productivity.

  • Utility costs increase.

  • Forest fires destroy commercial forestland.



The Navajo Nation Drought Task Force was established. The task force is representative of all divisions within the Navajo Nation Government, the Division of Natural Resources, Division of Health, Historic Preservation, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Public Safety, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of the President and Vice-President.  

The task force developed a 2.1 million dollar budget to finance mitigation activities.

The Commission on Emergency Management has reaffirmed the State of Emergency on the Drought. New Mexico and Arizona have declared a State of Emergency due to the drought. These declarations are necessary to activate relief activities at the counties directly to communities in need.

Livestock sales help to reduce the number of livestock. Less grazing on the land allows for regeneration of forage and improved conditions.

Livestock reductions by means of sales, reduces the impacts of animal diseases and allows veterinarian services to save on the cost of medicines and control animal diseases effectively.

Public Education brings attention to conservation and preparedness activities.

Navajo Nation

Eating new vegetation
The Increase of the Prairie Dog

Effects of Drought


Saftety First When Hauling Water