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Drought Runs Amok

Water Efficiency Journal, Tuesday, April 17, 2012 2:49 PM 

Much of U.S. in the midst of drought, billions in agricultural losses.

First it was Georgia, with Governor Sonny Purdue holding prayer meetings in attempt to incur divine intervention. Then it was Texas, with uncontrolled wildfires outside of Austin and water shipped on the back of tankers instead of flowing out of faucets. And as recently as last year, the southern United States has been left reeling from over $10 billion in agriculture losses.

And there’s no end in sight.

In the March/April issue of Water Efficiency, I discussed the US Drought Monitor that revealed, “many American cities—including Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; Phoenix, AZ; and Oklahoma City, OK—are situated smack dab in the middle of a drought belt. Indeed, much of the western US appears to be headed in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, a lack of April showers has plunged much of the country into drought conditions—transforming the drought belt into a drought blanket. Last week, theDrought Monitor reported that 61% of the lower 48 states are experiencing “abnormally dry” drought conditions. In fact, only two states—Ohio and Alaska—are not experiencing any drought, or “near-drought”, conditions.

With 48 states in the crosshairs of drought—the highest percentage since 2007, according to the Drought Monitor—many regions unaccustomed to water shortages are finding themselves at the losing end of their water resources. According the US Geological Survey, New England is currently experiencing stream flow levels at record lows. In fact, all along the East Coast, communities are struggling to deal with unusual drought conditions, including:

* Connecticut has “endured its driest January-March period ever” according toWeather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.

* Vermont is listed as “abnormally dry” in the sixth month, after recording its wettest August on record, including flooding as a result of Hurricane Irene.

* Wildfires in Florida, New Jersey, and all along the East Coast are being blamed on dry, windy conditions.

In the South, conditions are also continuing to worsen. The South Florida Water Management District has issued a water shortage warning extending from Key West to Orlando. And parts of Georgia and Texas continue to struggle under dry conditions exacerbated by La Niña weather conditions.

In California, the Department of Water Resources has warned that the state’s snowpack is 45% below normal. And in the Plains states and the Midwest, farmers are keeping a wary eye on weather conditions due to a less than optimal snowpack, thanks to an unusually mild winter.

So, what do you think? How do we get ourselves out from under the drought blanket? Are we doing enough to reduce demand and eliminate water waste? And do you think there’s enough of an understanding by the general public that drought doesn’t just impact the water that comes out of the tap, but the light switch, the gas pump, and just about every product and activity we depend on?

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