Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor website.
Click the link to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
The upper-level circulation over the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week (September 20-26) consisted of an upper-level ridge of high pressure, that extended from the southern Plains to Hudson Bay, and a low-pressure trough over the eastern Pacific. The trough sent weather systems spinning across the CONUS, with their fronts and surface low pressure systems generating areas of rain across the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and Great Plains to the Mississippi Valley. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Ophelia moved up the East Coast, spreading rain from North Carolina to southern New England. These areas were wetter than normal for the week. Some of the rain was locally heavy, with over 5 inches reported in places. Much of the rain fell over severely dry areas, which resulted in contraction or reduction in the intensity of drought in parts of the Great Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley, and Mid-Atlantic states. It was drier than normal across the rest of the West, large parts of the central to southern Plains, and most of the country between the Mississippi Valley and Appalachians. The continued dry conditions from the Ohio Valley to central Gulf of Mexico Coast resulted in expansion or intensification of drought and abnormal dryness in these areas. Temperatures averaged warmer than normal beneath the ridge across the Plains, Mississippi Valley, and Great Lakes. The week was cooler than normal in the West and across the East Coast states…
Northern and eastern parts of the High Plains region received half an inch to over 2 inches of rain this week, while Colorado and parts of Wyoming and Kansas received little to no rain. D0-D4 contracted in Nebraska, D0-D3 were reduced in Kansas and North Dakota, and D0-D2 shrank in South Dakota. On the other hand, abnormal dryness returned to Wyoming and abnormal dryness and moderate drought expanded in Colorado. Two-thirds (67%) of the topsoil in Kansas was still short or very short of moisture, according to USDA statistics…
The southerly flow ahead of the eastern Pacific trough created an atmospheric river event that resulted in half an inch to 2 inches of precipitation across coastal areas from northern California to Washington. While the precipitation was helpful, it did not make up for deficits that have built up over the last several months; parts of Washington are still 10 inches or more below normal over the last 6 months. Severe drought was eliminated over southwest coastal Oregon where rainfall totals exceeded 3 inches and the total for the month was above normal. Much of Montana and parts of the northern Rockies received widespread 1 to 3 inches of precipitation; this resulted in contraction of D0-D2 in Montana. The rest of the West region received little to no precipitation. Abnormal dryness and severe drought expanded in Arizona, and extreme to exceptional drought expanded in southern New Mexico. USDA statistics indicated that three-fourths or more of the topsoil moisture was short or very short in Washington (82%), New Mexico (78%), Montana (77%), and Oregon (74%)…
Bands of heavy rain fell across eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and the ArkLaTex, with amounts over 5 inches recorded. Amounts of half an inch to 2 inches extended outward from this central band. But the western half of Texas and Oklahoma, and much of Mississippi and Tennessee received little to no rain. Hydrological impacts were severe in parts of the South region, with Falcon International Reservoir in south Texas near record-low levels, comparable to the levels reached during the droughts of 2002 and 1956 (during the Great Plains 1950s Drought). Temperatures were warmer than normal across most of the region, with anomalies reaching 8 to 12 degrees above normal over Texas. Moderate to exceptional drought expanded in Mississippi, extreme drought expanded in southwest Oklahoma and southern Texas, and abnormal dryness and some moderate drought spread across parts of Tennessee. Abnormal dryness and moderate to exceptional drought were trimmed in parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, with 2-category changes occurring in places. Arkansas had contraction of drought in the west and expansion or intensification in the central to eastern parts. The lack of precipitation and persistently hot temperatures during the last several months in the South have severely dried out soils. According to September 24 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, 80% of the topsoil moisture in Louisiana was short or very short (dry or very dry). The statistics were 75% for Mississippi, 66% for Texas, 63% for Oklahoma, 62% for Arkansas, and 38% for Tennessee…
In the two days since the Tuesday valid time of this USDM, the atmospheric river continued in the Pacific Northwest and rain has fallen across parts of the Midwest, Texas, and Florida. For September 28-October 3, a slow-moving weather system will drop 1 to locally 2 inches of rain across the Ohio Valley and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley, while a Pacific weather system will move across the northwestern CONUS, spreading 1 to 2 inches of precipitation across the Pacific Northwest and Montana, with heavier amounts (up to 4 inches or more expected) in coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. The Florida peninsula is forecast to get 2 to 4 inches of rain, while the Gulf Coast, Rio Grande Valley, and Mid-Atlantic states can expect an inch or less. The Southwest, New England, Carolina Piedmont, and most of New York and the southern Plains to Iowa are predicted to receive little to no precipitation. Temperatures are progged to be above normal from the Plains to Northeast and near to below normal across the Southeast and West.
For much of the next 2 weeks, the atmospheric circulation will consist of an upper-level trough over the western CONUS and a ridge over the Mississippi Valley. The trough/ridge system will slowly shift east during the period. The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) 6-10 Day Outlook (valid October 3-7) and 8-14 Day Outlook (valid October 5-11) favor a fairly stable pattern of warmer-than-normal temperatures from the Plains to East Coast and cooler-than-normal temperatures over the West and over the southeastern half of Alaska. The outlook is for above-normal precipitation over the Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley, northern half of the West, and most of Alaska. Odds favor below-normal precipitation over the Northeast and Appalachian Mountain chain, extending into the Ohio Valley and to the central Gulf Coast, as well as in the Alaska panhandle.
Click the link to read the report on the University of Wyoming website (Drew E. Bennett, Max Lewis, Hallie Mahowald, Matt Collins, Travis Brammer, Hilary Byerly Flint, Lucas Thorsness, Weston Eaton, Kristiana Hansen, Mark Burbach, and Elizabeth Koebele). Here’s the executive summary:
The Colorado River Basin is in crisis. There is no longer enough water for all of those who depend on it. The agricultural sector is the largest water user in the Colorado River Basin, meaning that farmers and ranchers are central to both the impacts of and solutions to water shortages. Their involvement will be key to developing effective policy solutions to today’s water crisis.
We surveyed 1,020 agricultural water users throughout six states in the Colorado River Basin to understand their perspectives on the present crisis, their current water conservation practices, and their preferences for strategies to address water shortages going forward. Agricultural water users were primarily concerned about how the current situation could impact water policy, constrain irrigators’ own water use, and constrain other agricultural water users. We also conducted qualitative research to capture preferences for local approaches to managing water and provide additional context on dynamics in the Colorado River Basin, including interviews with 12 agricultural producers and water experts and a focus group with 10 agricultural water users in Colorado.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found agricultural water users are already responding to water shortages. Roughly 70% of surveyed agricultural water users have already adopted one or more water conservation practices or adaptation strategies. Importantly, many would consider adopting additional practices. Despite this, few respondents participated in or were aware of formal programs to support water conservation. One exception, however, was the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A third of respondents currently or previously participated in EQIP and an additional 37% were aware of the program. Information gathered from interviews and the focus group identified multiple burdens to participation in EQIP and similar programs, and several participants thought the benefits were not worth the effort. These insights suggest an opportunity for revisiting how formal programs meant to incentivize water conservation connect with water users.
Most survey respondents were unlikely to adopt water conservation practices as part of formal demand management or system conservation programs to address water shortages. Only one of eight practices included in the survey – enhancing water delivery systems – had a majority of respondents state that they were likely to adopt the practice. The remaining seven practices had a considerably lower likelihood of adoption. Respondents were also generally opposed to water transfers as a solution to shortages. Opposition was strongest to permanent transfers broadly, as well as to temporary transfers from agricultural to non-agricultural uses. Only temporary transfers from agricultural water users to other agricultural water users had less than 50% opposition. Major barriers to supporting water transfers included concerns about losing water rights, even in temporary transfer arrangements, as well as insufficient financial compensation. Addressing these concerns will be critical to increase participation of agricultural water users in demand management or system conservation. Still, although support for temporary water transfers and demand management practices was low, even equivalently low participation (e.g., 10% to 20%) could help address water shortages as part of a portfolio of strategies for the Colorado River Basin.
We also documented an overwhelming preference for local approaches to managing water shortages and a trust gap with non-local agencies. This was evidenced by respondents’ preference for the local management of formal programs, such as some of the demand management and system conservation
programs under consideration, as well as for the administration of funding for water conservation and other programs. Qualitative research participants communicated that strategies to address water shortages must account for the diversity of local contexts across the Colorado River Basin. These strategies could therefore be best implemented at the local level through existing delivery infrastructure and by managers with track records of success. State and federal water managers and agencies involved in program delivery should emphasize building trust with agricultural water users and gaining knowledge about unique features of local contexts. Simply providing additional funding for formal water conservation programs may be inadequate to meet the diversity of challenges across an area of 246,000 square miles. Developing opportunities for dialogue and listening can help foster relationships and improve trust among key stakeholders.
Given the importance of agriculture as the primary water user in the Colorado River Basin, proactively engaging agricultural communities will be critical to successfully managing water shortages. Understanding the perspectives and preferences of agricultural water users, as documented in this report, can help guide the development of solutions that work for producers and other users in the Basin.