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 intense).
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 Ohio Valley.
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 Colorado River 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 Lake Powell 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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