The American West is drying out. Things will get ugly
Jun 19, 2021 2 mins, 45 secs
Maps show more than a quarter of the US is in "exceptional drought," underscoring the scope of a decades-long dry-out.

Stories are popping up across the West of possible rationing, coming restrictions and looming standoffs between farmers and the government over the most precious natural resource.


States like Arizona and Nevada are almost guaranteed to have their water allotment from the Colorado River cut back, which through a complicated drought contingency tier system agreed to by states in 2019 will affect farmers first.

To the north, there's a sharp disagreement in Oregon between farmers cut off from water to irrigate their potatoes and federal officials trying to save an endangered species of fish.

When CNN's Lucy Kafanov reported from the Klamath Basin last week, she did her live shot from the parched bottom of a lake that should be feet deep.

The farmers set up shop in a tent outside the canal headgate and were all but threatening to break in and open the gates themselves, like they did 20 years ago.

The most visible and striking effect of the heat and drought is at Lake Mead, which is at its lowest levels since it was filled during construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

Less snowpack and more evaporation from hot temperatures have taken their toll over the course of decades to the point where its dropped more than 140 feet since 2000 and sits at not much more than a third of its capacity.

Now for an aside on the Hoover Dam, government spending and climate change.

That'll be pared back by three quarters if he's to get any Republican help passing it,

Government spending: The latest bipartisan proposal includes $5 billion to help address the Western water shortage, although larger pots of money are meant to improve water and power infrastructure; the dam, with less water behind it, is producing less energy.

Climate change: But while lawmakers are happy to find a way to spend money on infrastructure as long as they don't raise taxes, there's zero agreement with Republicans to do anything directly about climate change, which is helping this drought along.

2021 image comparison is incredible.

Remember, 40 million people living across seven Western states and Mexico get their water from the Colorado River system.

The entire West is dry.

They have very specific criteria that's unique to each state for delineating between "extreme drought" and "exceptional drought."

The criteria they list for "exceptional drought" in California is not far from apocalyptic:

Fields are left fallow; orchards are removed; vegetable yields are low; honey harvest is smallFire season is very costly; number of fires and area burned are extensiveMany recreational activities are affectedFish rescue and relocation begins; pine beetle infestation occurs; forest mortality is high; wetlands dry up; survival of native plants and animals is low; fewer wildflowers bloom; wildlife death is widespread; algae blooms appearPolicy change; agriculture unemployment is high, food aid is neededPoor air quality affects health; greenhouse gas emissions increase as hydropower production decreases; West Nile Virus outbreaks riseWater shortages are widespread; surface water is depleted; federal irrigation water deliveries are extremely low; junior water rights are curtailed; water prices are extremely high; wells are dry, more and deeper wells are drilled; water quality is poor

We know the short-term effects of this drought will be restrictions and new rules.

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