This article assesses drought status in the Yarmouk Basin (YB), in northern Jordan, using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), the Standardized Water-Level Index (SWI), and the Percent Departure from Normal rainfall (PDNimd) during the years 1993–2014. The results showed that the YB suffers from frequent and irregular periods of drought as variations in drought intensity and frequency have been observed. The SPI results revealed that the highest drought magnitude of − 2.34 appeared at Nuaimeh rainfall station in 1991. This station has also experienced severe drought particularly in years 1995, 1999, 2005, and 2012 with SPI values ranging from − 1.51 to − 1.59. Some other rainfall stations such as Baqura, Ibbin, Khanasiri, Kharja, Mafraq police, Ramtha, Turra, and Umm Qais have also suffered several periods of drought mostly in 1993. The SWI results show the highest extreme drought events in 2001 in Souf well while other extreme drought periods were observed at Wadi Elyabis well in 1994 and at Mafraq well in 1995. As compared to SPI maps, our SWI maps reflect severe and extreme drought events in most years, negatively impacting the groundwater levels in the study area.