Drought in Western USA is a consistent fact in more recent years. Some areas face heavier problems compared to others. Some states have more drastically urgent concerns than others. But all of us are in this together, really. As it all has to do with water. A necessity of life. Along with the air, it's really the basis for life on earth.
Think of ground-water, supplying the water table, contributing to plant growth, & more. That in turn makes possible other life. Everything is interdependent. That's ecology for you!
Here we're especially concerned with drought's effects on the waterways of the West. They're vital to so much in the environment. We always look at how drought affects some states in the Western USA.
Before looking into each of the eight Western U.S. states we're mainly concerned with, we want to be sure of the meaning or definition of drought. For that we consider several aspects:1
Evaluated Multiple Ways
Water via precipitation is normally infrequent in this state of deserts and "Sky Island" mountains. This situation makes Arizona easily susceptible to drought conditions. Arizona depends on a supply of water from the Colorado River. It must manage that river resource very carefully. The Colorado River Compact made an agreement to allocate the river's waters between river basin states. Additionally, Native American rights to the river's water was insured with a 1963 Supreme Court ruling.
Many new residents have moved to Arizona, increasing pressures on water supplies. When drought is at hand it affects citizens in ways they may not always notice. Others definitely notice! Ranchers & farmers, plants of the forest & fields, & animal life.3
Some Arizona drought details:3
At the beginning of 2014, Governor Brown declared a California drought emergency. The drought actually began two years prior, but reached emergency status that year. By 2016, with water conservation efforts & actions, the emergency status was relieved. The statewide drought lasted five years.4
But California is still largely challenged today with drought conditions. They've introduced a Water Bank, & other management planning:
Colorado is using a Drought Monitor for evaluation of drought levels. Another evaluation method, using a kind-of likert scale, or a leveled rubric.
It evaluates consequences in the state because of drought. It also considers the severity of particular repercussions in an area. Deciding which ramifications for appraisal was based on burdens faced during historical droughts. For instance, if irrigation begins earlier, if rangeland plants are stunted, if wildfires happen often, if snowpack is low, when water temperatures rise, and/or dust storms increase. Among numerous other factors.
The drought in New Mexico, in the Western USA is monitored in a similar method to Colorado. But the appearance looks a little different. They use five different Levels of Drought, from Abnormally Dry to Exceptional Drought.
Nevada water usage by residents is concentrated in a few areas, such as the greater Las Vegas area, and Reno. Nevada cautions its citizens that water used outside in many instances evaporates in this dry desert climate, and thus cannot be recycled for reuse. So especially in Southern Nevada, which has the largest concentration of people, many water usage plans are in place to help with drought mitigation.
Oklahoma provides several resources for checking on drought conditions in their state, as well as the Western USA.
The current drought in Texas began in 2010. Higher summertime temperatures of recent years are causing excessive evaporation of water resources from reservoirs. Since 2010 the average temperature is 2oF higher.5 Ground areas dry out from this heat also, affecting rivers, which then affect connecting lakes.
In intermittent years rains from hurricanes and other substantial storms alleviate drought for a time, but the effect is temporary.5 Thus drought in the Western USA state of Texas is something to regularly contend with.
Serious, because of the many widespread detrimental effects. There have been wildfires, city water failures, water restriction/cut-off for farming, increased dust storms, roadway & tree damage, crop & beef price upward swings, & endangerment to power plants.5 There is no upside.
Texas approved a State Water Plan, with included measures to encourage water conservation.5 The Most Severe drought areas are in West Texas & in the Pan Handle.
Water supplies for Utah's citizens arrives through their mountains' snowpack. As much as 95% of it! The state of Utah, throughout 2021, has been in a drought. Most areas in the extreme range, some parts in the severe range. A very small portion of Utah suffering from moderate drought.6
The state's Division of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, congratulated residents on their water conservation over the year of 2021: "Billions of gallons saved!"6 To help educate the public, Utah sponsors Drought Webinars. Plus lots more great information to help work against a drought.
In Canyonlands National Park in Utah, the Green River meets up with the Colorado River, & shortly if rafting downward, you'd enter Cataract Canyon. Known for Class III, IV & V rapids, lately the Green River hasn't done much in helping what's been a result of the drought in Western USA. It's been complicating take-out spots at Lake Powell & related areas, plus impacting rapids.7,8
Drought in Western USA states, in fact wherever in the world it's occurring, is a serious event. We can all do our part for water conservation, and preservation of our natural resources. Our lakes and rivers depend on your assistance.
See References For Drought in Western USA>
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