Posted by Ryan J. Beard on Sep 1, 2012 - 11:18:06 PM
LOS ANGELES—It has been a hot and dry summer for most of the
country. With temperatures soaring above the 90’s in much of the west, and
little to no rain, the drought continues to expand and worsen. The most recent
drought statistics released by the U.S. Drought Monitor states that 62 percent
of the contiguous United States is experiencing some sort of drought, compared
to just 30 percent a year ago. The U.S. Drought Monitor ranks the intensities
of droughts from abnormally dry (least intense) to exceptional drought (most
Of the 62 percent of the country experiencing some
sort of drought, 6 percent of the country is experiencing an exceptional
drought, 17 percent is experiencing an extreme drought, 19 percent is
experiencing a severe drought, and 20 percent is experiencing a moderate
The scarcity of moisture has stressed the demand for water and has
“further sapped soil moisture reserves, stressed crops and other vegetation,
and shrank streams,” says NOAA. The hardest hit areas are the Rocky Mountain States, Central
Plains, and OhioValley.
Record breaking temperatures, low snow pack, and below average
rain have parched the Colorado River headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, which
is not a good sign for the already overused river. According to the U.S.
Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation, this summer's drought continues
to be the most severe drought on record, in which the ColoradoRiver Basin only produced normal to above-average runoff three years between
2000 and 2011.
Over the past decade, major reservoirs have dropped to record low
levels with LakePowell dropping to one third of its capacity in 2005, and Lake Mead dropping to just 7
feet in depth in 2010. Despite the record breaking winter of 2010-2011 leading
to vast runoff and water levels that rose more than 30 feet in Lake Mead, Shaun McKinnon of
azcentral.com estimates that water will only be in abundance until 2016, at
which time strict rationing will commence.
The fact remains that the Colorado River is overused by the
Southwest; the current extended drought continues to stress the river, and
despite increasingly strict water regulations, the water levels will continue
to fall as water shortcomings rise.
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