Category Archives: Water

It’s ALL About WATER… The Seven States That Are Running Out

I wanted to give you an overview of where we stand with the current US drought which now has just over 30% of the US in at least “moderate” drought conditions. In seven states drought conditions were so severe that each had more than half of its land area in what’s called “severe drought.” Severe drought is characterized by crop loss, frequent water shortages, and mandatory water use restrictions. While large portions of the seven states suffer from this severe drought, some parts of these states are in even worse condition. In six of the seven states with the highest levels of drought, more than 30% of each state was in “extreme” drought as of last week. Extreme drought is characterized by major crop and pasture losses, as well as widespread water shortages. Additionally, in California and Oklahoma, 25% and 30% of the state, respectively, suffered from exceptional drought, the highest severity classification. With exceptional drought, crop and pasture loss is widespread, and shortages of well and reservoir water can lead to water emergencies. Listed below are the seven states that are running out of water and some details surrounding their situation. (Source: 24/7WallSt.)

#7. Texas – With nearly 40% of land area in the state experiencing extreme drought conditions, Texas’ agriculture industry will continue to be hit hard. Remember, texas has nearly a quarter of a million farms, the most out of any state in the nation, as of 2012. 

  • Pct. severe drought: 56.1%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 39.9% (4th highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 20.7% (3rd highest)

#6. Oklahoma – With the highest and second highest percentages in the exceptional and extreme drought categories respectively, Oklahoma has reached emergency levels. The state’s Emergency Drought Relief Commission has awarded more than $1 million to several drought-ridden communities in the state.

  • Pct. severe drought: 64.5%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 50.1% (2nd highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 30.4% (the highest)

#5. Arizona – While Arizona isn’t experiencing exceptional drought, severe drought conditions have engulfed more than three quarters of the state. The extreme heat and lighter-than-average snowfall from the winter have reduced the soil moisture to such a degree that fire hazards are significantly higher. 

  • Pct. severe drought: 76.3%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 7.7% (9th highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 0.0%

#4. Kansas – While Kansas has at least 80% of the state engulfed sever drought, you might find it interesting that compared to last May, the state has improved in the exceptional drought category, dropping from 20% last May, down to just 2.8% currently. In Announcing the severity of the state’s drought problem, Kansas governor Sam Brownback has lifted restricitons on taking water from state-owned fishing lakes. 

  • Pct. severe drought: 80.8%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 48.1% (3rd highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 2.8% (6th highest)

#3. New Mexico – Though conditions in New Mexico are bad, they aren’t as bad as last year at this time when virtually the entire state was in at least severe drought, with more than 80% in extreme drought conditions. 

  • Pct. severe drought: 86.2%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 33.3% (6th highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 4.5% (5th highest)

#2. Nevada – Nearly 40% of Nevada was covered in extreme drought last week, among the highest rates in the country. According to Las Vegas Valley Water District, the main cause of the drought this year has been below average snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. Melting snow from the Rocky Mountains eventually flows into Lake Mead, which provides most of the Las Vegas Valley with water. 

  • Pct. severe drought: 87.0%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 38.7% (5th highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 8.2% (4th highest)

#1. California – California had the nation’s worst drought problem with more than 76% of the state experiencing extreme drought as of last week. Drought in California has worsened considerably in recent years. California had 465,422 hired farm workers in 2012, more than any other state. Farm workers would likely suffer further if conditions persist. The shortage of potable water has been so severe that California is now investing in long-term solutions, such as desalination plants. A facility is expected to be the largest in the Western hemisphere is currently under construction in Southern California.

  • Pct. severe drought: 100.0%
  • Pct. extreme drought: 76.7% (the highest)
  • Pct. exceptional drought: 24.8% (2nd highest)

Where Is the World Running Out of Water?

Many of the world’s most important food-producing regions depend on freshwater from massive underground aquifers that have built up over thousands of years, i.e. the Ogallala Aquifer in the central US; the Upper Ganges, which sustain both India and Pakistan. However, many of those aquifers are now being sucked dry by irrigation and other uses faster than they can be replenished by rainwater. It’s still unclear when many of these aquifers will be completely emptied — scientists are still trying to measure just how much water these aquifers actually hold. In response to this worrying trend the Nature study, published by researchers at McGill and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, offers a map showing the regions where the use of water from these aquifers vastly exceeds the rate at which they are being refilled by rain. At first glance the map may appear to be somewhat complicated, but it essentially compares usage with the actual rainfall a particular aquifer receives. Blue areas receive more rain than is being used. The Floridian Aquifer in the US, for instance, tends to get quickly refilled by simply a big storm. As you can see Russia has plenty of freshwater, but orange or red areas indicate places where irrigation and drinking water use is drawing out more water from the aquifers than the rain can refill. Some areas are really struggling. Take for instance, the Upper Ganges in northern India, which sustains farm irrigation in both India and Pakistan. The underground reservoir there would essentially need 54 times as much rain as it currently gets to replenish the water that’s being used by farmers and the local population. (That’s what the gray “footprint” at the bottom of the map shows.) In the US, about 27% of irrigated farmland depends on the Ogallala aquifer, and it’s a key region for livestock, corn, wheat, and soy. But it’s slowly getting depleted. In some counties, the water table is dropping by as much as two feet per year. As many of you likely know, farmers have been experimenting for years with various water conservation practices, such as crop rotation, as well as more efficient watering techniques like center pivot or drip irrigation. Others are putting their hopes in technological advances — new crop breeds that can use water more efficiently. US pioneers and biotech engineers are helping to pioneer water conservation practices that can be used all over the world. And with the global population soaring past 7 billion, this is one of the biggest questions the world is now facing: Can better conservation practices and new technology enable farmers to keep feeding the planet without depleting its most important water resources?

aquifers