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Hazard - Drought
(See Mitigation Page for description on all hazards.) 
  • What is a Drought?
  • What are the Indicators of a Drought?
  • What Restrictions Might Occur During a Drought?
  • What are the Potential Impacts of a Drought?    
  • Additional Resources
What is a Drought?
A drought is an extended dry climate condition when there is not enough water to support urban, agricultural, human, or environmental water needs. It usually refers to a period of below-normal rainfall, but can also be caused by drying bores or lakes, or anything that reduces the amount of liquid water available. Drought is a recurring feature of nearly all the world's climatic regions.
The state of Maryland uses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ definition of drought, which states, "droughts are periods of time when natural or managed water systems do not provide enough water to meet established human and environmental uses because of natural shortfalls in precipitation or stream flow." Droughts unfold at an almost imperceptible pace with beginning and ending times that are difficult to determine, and with effects that often are spread over vast regions. While maintaining water supplies for human use is an important aspect of drought management, drought can also have many other dramatic and detrimental effects on the environment and wildlife.
What are the Indicators of a Drought?
In order to monitor potential drought conditions in a uniform manner, the State uses four indicators of water sufficiency. The indicators are based on the amount of precipitation and the effect of the precipitation (or lack of precipitation) on the hydrologic system. These indicators include: 
  • Precipitation Levels 
  • Stream Flows
  • Ground Water Levels
  • Reservoir Storage 
The indicators are used in conjunction with historic data to determine if a current deficit is within a commonly experienced range, or whether it is unusually large. Ground water levels in confined aquifers are responsive to pumping stresses at distances far removed from pumping centers. No baseline exists for measuring changes in water levels for confined systems. Therefore percentile frequencies are not available for wells in these systems. Evaluation of drought impacts in these systems will be analyzed as a departure from the long-term downward trend in water levels.
The state of Maryland is divided into regions for the purpose of assessing and declaring a drought. These regions predominately follow political boundaries and are based on similarity of weather patterns and primary source of water supply.  Both the state and counties have the authority to impose restrictions. Visit the MDE website for additional information.
Potential restrictions for county residents & businesses during a drought:
Depending on the severity of the drought, citizens and business owners may be subject to either voluntary or mandatory water use restrictions. Public water customers affected will likely be broken down by zip code. Residents with private wells may also feel the impact of a drought's effects and would be encouraged to make voluntary steps to conserve water.

Officially Declared Drought Emergency - Level One Mandatory Water Use Restrictions:
  • Watering of grass is prohibited
  • Use of sprinklers and other automatic watering devices is prohibited for purposes of irrigation, watering of gardenslandscaped areas, trees, shrubs and other outdoor plants.  Hand held containers and hoses with automatic shut off may be used for watering such areas.
  • Washing paved surfaces such as streets, roads, sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas, tennis courts, and patios is prohibited.
  • Use of water for the operation of ornamental fountains, artificial waterfalls, misting machines, and reflecting pools is prohibited.
  • Use of water for non-commercial washing or cleaning of mobile equipment including automobiles, trucks, trailers and boats is prohibited.
  • Serving of tap water in restaurants, clubs, or eating establishments is prohibited unless specifically requested by the customer.

    For more information on Level One water use restrictions, including exceptions to the above, visit the Maryland Department of the Environment website at or visit the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works website at

    *The mandatory water use restrictions will be enforced by local law enforcement officials.  Penalties may include fines and violators are subject to the disconnection of their public water supply.  Violations should be referred to the Anne Arundel County Police at (410) 222-8610.  The public should not call 911 for a water use restriction violation.
Risks and Concerns Related to Droughts...
Additional Resources



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Anne Arundel County, Maryland. 44 Calvert Street, Annapolis, Maryland 21401 | Tele: (410) 222-7000