City Cast

DC’s Is Facing a Drought

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on September 13
D.C.’s scorching summer sun.

D.C.’s scorching summer sun. (Joanna McCarthy/Getty Images)

You wouldn’t know D.C. is in the middle of a drought given all the flooding lately. So, how can both things be true? And what should we be doing about it?

It’s Pouring. What Drought?

The city has had some torrential downpour recently, but we’re still 5 inches behind the normal amount of rainfall for this time of year. Also, these short bursts of rain mostly end up immediately washing out into the ocean, so they don’t help maintain river levels or hydrate local plants.

Farmers throughout the DMV are seeing their crops wither with the lack of rain and recent record-breaking heat. Some crop yields are down by 40% and livestock are feeding on hay rather than fresh pasture. Last month, the Potomac was so low that the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin initiated drought monitoring.

Why Is This Happening?

In short, climate change. Jacob Fenston says we can expect these unusual weather patterns to happen more and more. “A lot of times when we think about climate change in this region, we think it's going to be wetter, there's going to be more flooding, there's going to be sea level rise. But there's also going to be an increased risk of drought.”

Conserve water sign

Do we need to be conserving water? (Patricia Marroquin/Getty Images)

Do We Need To Do Anything?

Right now, no. The forecast suggests that the drought will clear up this fall. However, if it continues, Fenston says the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments could declare a drought watch. This would mean asking people to voluntarily conserve water, like not washing your car, not watering your lawn, etc. The committee will assess on Sept. 19 whether this is necessary.

Get into the nitty-gritty of D.C.’s unusual weather patterns and how D.C. is managing it on our recent podcast episode.

Hey DC

Want to know what's happening in D.C.? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey DC. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

Urban Almanac

See All

The latest in DC