Water Year 2006 (October 1, 2005, to September 30, 2006) was a year of extreme hydrologic drought and the driest year in the recent 2002-2006 drought in Oklahoma. The severity of this recent drought can be evaluated by comparing it with four previous major hydrologic droughts, water years 1929-41, 1952-56, 1961-72, and 1976-81. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, completed an investigation to summarize the Water Year 2006 hydrologic drought and compare it to the four previous major hydrologic droughts in the 20th century.
The period of water years 1925-2006 was selected as the period of record because before 1925 few continuous record streamflow-gaging sites existed and gaps existed where no streamflow-gaging sites were operated. Statewide annual precipitation in Water Year 2006 was second driest and statewide annual runoff in Water Year 2006 was sixth driest in the 82 years of record.
Annual area-averaged precipitation totals by the nine National Weather Service Climate Divisions from Water Year 2006 are compared to those during four previous major hydrologic droughts to show how rainfall deficits in Oklahoma varied by region. Only two of the nine climate divisions, Climate Division 1 Panhandle and Climate Division 4 West Central, had minor rainfall deficits, while the rest of the climate divisions had severe rainfall deficits in Water Year 2006 ranging from only 65 to 73 percent of normal annual precipitation.
Regional streamflow patterns for Water Year 2006 indicate that Oklahoma was part of the regionwide below-normal streamflow conditions for Arkansas-White-Red River Basin, the sixth driest since 1930. The percentage of long-term stations in Oklahoma (with at least 30 years of record) having below-normal streamflow reached 80 to 85 percent for some days in August and November 2006.
Twelve long-term streamflow-gaging sites with periods of record ranging from 62 to 78 years were selected to show how streamflow deficits varied by region. The hydrologic drought worsened going from north to south in Oklahoma, ranging from 45 percent in the north, to just 14 percent in east-central Oklahoma, and 20 percent of normal annual streamflow in the southwest.
The low streamflows resulted in only 86.3 percent of the statewide conservation storage available at the end of the water year in major reservoirs, and 7 to 47 percent of hydroelectric power generation at sites in Oklahoma in Calendar Year 2005.
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USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic Drought of Water Year 2006 Compared with Four Major Drought Periods of the 20th Century in Oklahoma