About 6 percent of the state, including western Morton County, is experiencing exceptional drought conditions, the most severe of six categories rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The new rating released Thursday is only the second time portions of North Dakota have reached the exceptional drought level since the U.S. Drought Monitor map was created in 2000, said Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota’s state climatologist.
The last time was in 2006, when 2.4 percent of the state was categorized as exceptional drought, Akyuz said.
Other counties with large areas of land falling into exceptional drought include Hettinger, Stark, Mountrail, Ward and Divide.
To help counties experiencing drought conditions, the State Water Commission held an emergency meeting Thursday to approve another $500,000 in state funding to help ranchers get water to livestock.
The drought disaster livestock water supply program provides matching funds to help livestock producers pay for new wells, hookups to water pipelines and other projects.
The commission already had allocated $325,000 to the program, but that wasn’t adequate to meet the demand, said Gov. Doug Burgum, who is chairman of the State Water Commission.
“We went through that rather quickly as this drought unfolded,” Burgum said.
Even though the program ran out of money, the commission continued accepting applications giving conditional approval for projects with the hope that additional funds would become available, said State Engineer Garland Erbele.
About $223,000 of the additional $500,000 already has been committed, leaving about $277,000 in available funding. The water commission meets next on Aug. 23 and could provide additional funding.
Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who serves on the water commission, said he believes the money will help producers minimize the hardships they’re experiencing.
Thirty-six of North Dakota’s 53 counties are eligible for the program. For more information, visit swc.nd.gov.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened additional Conservation Reserve Program lands for emergency grazing and haying for areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana affected by severe drought.
With dry weather and hot temperatures expected to continue, the exceptional drought areas will likely expand to neighboring counties in the coming weeks, Akyuz said.
About 40 percent of North Dakota, including most of Burleigh and Morton counties, is considered to be at least in extreme drought.
Brief storms have done little to forestall drought conditions as excessive heat and persistent below-normal precipitation continue, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly report.