Paper: Dry landscapes and parched economies: A review of how #drought impacts nonagricultural socioeconomic sectors in the US Intermountain West — WIREs Water

Click here to access the report (Adam N. Wlostowski, Keith S. Jennings, Rachel E. Bash, Jesse Burkhardt, Cameron W. Wobus, Graeme Aggett). Here’s the abstract:


From hampering the ability of water utilities to fill their reservoirs to leaving forests parched and ready to burn, drought is a unique natural hazard that impacts many human and natural systems. A great deal of research and synthesis to date has been devoted to understanding how drought conditions harm agricultural operations, leaving other drought-vulnerable sectors relatively under-served. This review aims to fill in such gaps by synthesizing literature from a diverse array of scientific fields to detail how drought impacts nonagricultural sectors of the economy: public water supply, recreation and tourism, forest resources, and public health. We focus on the Intermountain West region of the United States, where the decadal scale recurrence of severe drought provides a basis for understanding the causal linkages between drought conditions and impacts.

This article is categorized under:

Human Water > Value of Water
Science of Water > Water Extremes


Drought in the Intermountain West typically begins during the winter in high elevation mountain basins with reduced snow accumulation and earlier than normal melt. Drought conditions proceed downstream to lower elevations in the form of diminished streamflow, lower reservoir storage, higher plant water demand, increased reliance on groundwater, and desiccated forests. Drought conditions affect the recreation and tourism industry by truncating the winter ski and summer boating seasons. Drought impacts municipal water suppliers by increasing demand amidst lower-than-average supply, which in turn stresses utility finances. Drought impacts forest resources by way of tree mortality, wildfire, and diminished ecosystem services. Hot and dry conditions trigger myriad public health impacts, including increased incidences of respiratory disease, mental health issues, and adverse water quality conditions. While the impacts of drought extend to other facets of regional ecosystems and economies, our review focuses on impacts to tourism and recreation, municipal water supply, forest resources, and public health.

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