Julia Botero / WRVO News


This year's drought has left wells dry across the region. After some rain, farmers are wondering when their groundwater will be replenished. 

The good news is groundwater levels are higher than they've been in months, Cornell University hydrologist Todd Walter told farmers and agriculture leaders in Watertown Wednesday.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Most of northern and central New York is still experiencing a drought, despite some rain this weekend. Groundwater reserves are depleted in wells across the region. Farmers are trucking in water for their livestock, people are digging new wells for their homes and towns are trying to find ways to conserve this now limited resource.

Julia Botero

A large part of New York state is still in severe to extreme drought. The USDA will now cover the cost of new pipelines and wells for farmers in Jefferson and Lewis Counties to reach more water. But farms in other parts of the state, like the Finger Lakes, are getting more attention.  

Drought may cause drab fall foliage

Sep 22, 2016
Stanley Zimny / Flickr

The typically brilliant colors of fall may soon become the latest casualty of the severe drought affecting parts of central and western New York, and the Finger Lakes.

Plants cool when water evaporates from their leaves, and when there is little or no rain, that process shuts down.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

At the Hemlock Haven Christmas tree farm in Sandy Creek, Oswego County, frail, burnt orange pine trees stand out in sharp contrast to their emerald green neighbors. Owner and operator Michele Forsyth said with combined drought and sustained heat this summer, she's lost more than 10 percent of the trees on her farm. 

Farm Bureau: Drought worst in generations

Sep 5, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

New York farmers are experiencing the worst drought conditions in generations, and while the industry may suffer a setback, it will persevere.

That's from Dean Norton, the president of the New York Farm Bureau, a lobbying group for agribusiness.

Norton says one immediate concern is for dairy farmers.

He says the dairy industry is going through a price downturn, and as they receive lower prices for their products, dairy farmers are also facing the prospect of a shortage of feed this fall.

Jefferson County pushes for drought aid

Sep 5, 2016
Julia Botero / WRVO News

Jefferson County hopes to be included in a federal drought disaster declaration in the next week or two. On Tuesday, The U.S. Department of Agriculture listed 15 counties, plus nine contiguous counties, as drought disaster areas.

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Scientists with the Cornell Cooperative Extension are experimenting with a late-summer oat crop.  They say it may help farmers during a drought like the one parts of New York state are experiencing now. The oats could give farmers one last chance to stock up on feed for their livestock.

Nik Stanbridge / Flickr

College students are returning to upstate campuses and facing a situation year-round residents have dealt with for most of the year -- a drought.

August rainfall has been above average for many areas in New York state, but the National Weather Service says totals for the year in some parts of the state are several inches below normal.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

Walking among rows of green, picturesque vines, Tom Higgins of Heart & Hands Wine Company in Cayuga County pointed to a densely-packed cluster of pinot noir grapes. That density is typical for pinot noir, but this year, the cluster is even more crowded, which has implications for the last month or so of the growing season.

"When a cluster is nice and compact like this, rains in the latter part of the growing season are the curse of the winegrower," Higgins said. "It’s just not a good time to see rain."

Farmers hit hard by drought

Aug 8, 2016
Gabe Altieri / WSKG News

A severe drought continues to affect most of New York, and it's especially taking a toll on farmers in Tompkins County. Producers in the area say they've received about six less inches rain than an average season thus far.

Recent rainfall hasn't done much to help either. In fact, farmers say, at this point the season is pretty much a wash. "You tell people 'it's dry, it's dry' and then they say 'oh, it rained.' No, it didn't rain for two months. So [the season] is pretty much shot," said Chandler Benson, an organic dairy farmer in Lansing. 

U.S. Drought Monitor.

Parts of western and central New York, including the Southern Tier, remain in a severe drought category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More dry weather could impact the state in the months ahead.

Jason Smith / WRVO News

Oswego's mayor is asking city residents to conserve water, saying the city's water supply is at critically low levels. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Agriculture is an essential part of the North Country's economy. St. Lawrence and Jefferson County are among the top ten farming counties in the state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Watertown yesterday to speak with farmers about  new federal policies that could help them prosper. Many of the farmers who attended were most concerned about GMO labeling and improving international trade.

Julia Botero / WRVO News


Jefferson, Lewis and parts of St. Lawrence Counties are in the early stages of a drought. Areas of central and western New York are experiencing much worse conditions. Mike Hunter with the Cornell Cooperative Extension says the corn crop is fine, for now. But hay has taken a hit so far this summer.

Mike Hunter spoke to WRVO by cell phone from the middle of a corn field in Ellisburg, in southern Jefferson County, the driest place in the county right now. 

"You could kick the dust in the cornfields right now and the dust would fly in between the corn rows."

Thirsty Planet, from American RadioWorks

Jun 22, 2016
American RadioWorks/APM

Scientists say most people on Earth will first experience climate change in terms of water -- either too much or too little. This documentary, from American RadioWorks, explores some of the most salient problems and solutions regarding water by visiting two countries where water issues are critical: India and Israel.

A vast and ecologically diverse country, India suffers from water problems found across the globe: flooding, drought, pollution and lack of access by the poor.

In this archived broadcast from July, 15, 1988, John Weeks talks about how drought is bad for some plants compared to others. Drought has its cycles and it happens in nature. He talks about how this year it's a dry year and you see the plants changing based on the weather. He also talks about a study he did where many nests were flooded.

Though the dry weather is causing hardships for some, there is at least one benefit -- mosquito populations are down in central New York.

Dry weather threatens hay, corn crops

Jul 18, 2012

The hot, dry weather is taking a toll on crops in the region. Scattered heavy rains have brought some relief to some areas, but overall, production of field crops like hay and corn is suffering. In the North Country, it's been decades since the area experienced a summer so dry.

While we like to assign value to weather conditions, such as considering a drought being bad, John Weeks explains that in nature extreme weather is simply part of a cycle. He discusses how it is the extremes in climate that determine what vegetation grows. Drought is a gift to some life and a distraction to others. Locally, dry years are extremely beneficial to pheasants and wetland nesting birds. Originally aired July 15, 1988.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

New York isn't officially in a drought, but it's certainly been a dry summer so far in upstate New York.  Farmers aren't pushing the panic button just yet, but they are watching the skies.