AUGUST 10, 2006 - Posted at 8:05 a.m. CDT
SPRINGFIELD, MO - A severe drought in much of Missouri is entering its 18th month, and the effects are being felt in many ways.
An official with the Missouri Cattleman's Association says many ranchers may have to sell cattle prematurely or reduce their breeding stocks.
The state's largest water utility, Missouri American Water Company, is looking for new water sources for drought-stricken southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma.
Dredges on the Mississippi River are working to keep the channel a minimum of nine feet deep.
Last week, the Coast Guard began requiring barge operators to run fewer barges per tow, each with lighter loads.
The National Climatic Data Center says drought-related losses nationwide may exceed $1 billion this year. There are no estimates for drought damage in Missouri.
A climate specialist at the University of Missouri says the current drought is most severe in central, west and southwest Missouri. It started in March 2005, and despite some brief interruptions, it never really let up.