Drought results in diminished water supplies for people, plants and animals. Water is one of the essentials of life. People need drinking water and plants and animals need water in order to grow and thrive. The water on the earth’s surface comes from the precipitation that falls from the clouds in the form of rain and snow. When there is a lack of this precipitation a drought results and even if it is of a short duration it can have environmental consequences. During a prolonged drought, these consequences are compounded leaving the environment in a fragile state.
The lack of water dries out the surface of the ground. This makes the soil susceptible to damage from the wind which blows it away leaving the bedrock exposed in many areas. The depletion of soil, especially fertile soil, makes the land unfit for agriculture and this has an economic impact on agricultural areas as well as an environmental one. Areas that receive a lot of wind become susceptible to sandstorms.
Prolonged drought can result in infestation by insects and these destroy the plants that can exist with very little water. The air quality of an area during a drought when the temperature is very high also dries out the land much faster. The lack of humidity in the air makes it very difficult for people and animals to breathe.
Erosion occurs naturally at any time of the year due to the elements of weather, but it rapidly increases during times of drought. As the land and the vegetation become increasingly drier, the risk of forest fire escalates. Forest fires in dry areas are very difficult to fight and eradicate because the vegetation on the ground and the trees are like tinder and will ignite in a matter of seconds.
Famine is one of the consequences of prolonged periods of drought in which people die as a result of starvation if they are unable to migrate to an area with more water and potential for sources of food. When the plant life and the animals life of an area are affected by drought, so too are the people who depend on them as their food source. The quality of any water that does exist in drought-stricken areas is also unfit for drinking and causes a myriad of diseases, some of which are fatal.
It is not only the people who migrate from an area affected by a prolonged drought. The animals too migrate to other regions where they can have access to water and where there is water, there is also food. However, the migration of people has a dramatic impact on the environment of a region leaving one area completely devoid of life and overpopulating another. Tent cities are often set up to accommodate the people and this destroys existing habitats in that region.