The western U.S. is facing a major water crisis, which is being called a megadrought. While it is currently affecting the water sources out west, the rest of America will soon feel the repercussions.
According to Market Watch, “Right now, about 84% of the western U.S. is under some level of drought, and there is no sign of relief. Several types of drought are converging in the West this year, and all are at or near record levels.”
The combination of meteorological drought, hydrological drought, agricultural drought, ecological drought, and anthropogenic drought have led America’s greatest water reservoirs, including the Hoover Dam, to their lowest points ever. As a result, there is a big possibility that there will be an official shortage declaration for the first time.
Market Watch explains, “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Lake Mead, a giant Colorado River reservoir that provides water for millions of people, is on pace to fall to levels in June that could trigger the first federal water shortage declaration, with water use restrictions across the region.”
It's time to pay attention and start preparing.
Major Droughts in America’s History
This is not the first time Americans have faced a drought. As recent as 2012-2016, Californians dealt with widespread water restrictions due to drought conditions.
However, there have been very few times when Americans have dealt with a megadrought. The current conditions have scientists declaring the West’s current dry spell as one of the most severe megadroughts of the past 1,200 years.
According to Science Magazine, “In the late 1200s, the Ancestral Puebloan people of what is today the Four Corners Region of the U.S. Southwest suddenly vanished. For centuries, the culture—also known as the Anasazi—had grown maize and built elaborate villages and sandstone castles. Then, it was gone.”
The reason for the vanishing of the Ancestral Puebloan people? A megadrought.
Science Magazine continues, “The primary culprit, studies suggest, was a megadrought that would have made it impossible to grow enough food to feed the tens of thousands of people living in the region. That, combined with factors like deforestation and topsoil erosion, led the Ancestral Pueblos to leave their homes at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde in search of a better life elsewhere.”
Many people today associate droughts with not being able to water their lawns, but as history shows us, a drought can have much more damaging effects.
What Is Happening with Water in the West
For years, scientists have been preparing for a megadrought in the western U.S., and that time has arrived. Here’s where the situation stands today according to USA Today:
“Since 2000, the water level in Lake Mead, which is the reservoir formed by Hoover Dam and holds the title of the largest reservoir in the country, has dropped about 140 feet. It is just 37% full, headed for a first-ever official shortage and sinking toward its lowest levels since it was filled.”
Water levels in Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam are well below where they need to be and are expected to drop even more this summer. This is a serious issue because these reservoirs are responsible for the water that passes through major pipelines and canals through the western United States and Mexico. This water is used to meet personal, agricultural, and electrical needs.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation stipulates the level at which Lake Mead would fall for a shortage declaration to be declared. That level is 1,075 feet (328 meters), and experts believe that will happen for the first time in June 2021. Should the declaration go into effect, the seven states that rely on Colorado River water (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) will enter negotiations about which states will give up water and how much.
Potential Causes of the Megadrought
Unfortunately, the western U.S. is facing a combination of factors that are resulting in this megadrought.
First, there is a meteorological drought. This type of drought occurs when there is not enough rain or snow. Less precipitation equates to more drought conditions.
Next, these states are dealing with a hydrological drought. This is what occurs when rivers, lakes, and groundwater sink below average water levels, as we are seeing with Lake Mead.
Additionally, with less snowfall, there is less snowpack and low streamflow. Plus, warmer weather earlier in the year melted snow before it had time to saturate the ground. This also leads to agricultural drought because there is less moisture in the soil. Market Place explains, “The average soil moisture levels in the western U.S. in April were at or near their lowest levels in over 120 years of observations.”
Next, there is ecological drought, which is when local ecosystems fail to survive. According to Market Watch, “Fish hatcheries in Northern California have started trucking their salmon to the Pacific Ocean, rather than releasing them into rivers, because the river water is expected to be at historic low levels and too warm for young salmon to tolerate.”
Finally, there is also anthropogenic drought, which refers to human demand. As more people move to cities and water demand increases, the infrastructures put in place decades ago are unable to keep up.
The Types of Water Restrictions Already in Place
As of June 2021, many cities in the West have placed their citizens and businesses under water restrictions as a result of the megadrought.
For example, Utah news stations are providing Weekly Drought Guides, including watering guides and historically color-coded charts to mark the current conditions.
Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox recently told citizens, “Let me just state unequivocally, guys, it’s really bad. It’s as bad as it’s been […] We need everyone in the state to understand right now that we’re heading into one of the worst droughts and potentially worst fire seasons that we’ve seen.” Gov. Spencer Cox issued a new Executive Order declaring a state of emergency due to drought conditions.
In the Marin Water District in California, several water restrictions have been put in place. Here’s a list of restrictions provided by SF Gate:
- Spray irrigation is limited to no more than two days per week.
- Drip irrigation is limited to no more than three days per week.
- Outdoor watering is prohibited between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to prevent evaporation.
- Covers are required for all pools and spas. Liquid pool covers are acceptable.
- Do not wash vehicles at home. Use a car wash that recycles water instead.
- Do not power-wash homes or businesses.
- Do not wash driveways or sidewalks.
- Do not waste water. Flooding gutters is prohibited.
- Leaks must be fixed within 48 hours of being discovered.
- Garden hoses must have a shutoff nozzle.
- Golf course irrigation is restricted to greens and tees.
- Do not water grass on public medians.
- Do not use potable water for dust control, compaction, sewer flushing, or street cleaning.
- Do not refill or top off decorative fountains.
Why You Need to Invest in a Quality Water Filtration System Today
Even if you live on the other side of the country, it is wise to pay attention to what is happening out west. A drought of this magnitude will be felt near and far and include health implications.
According to the CDC:
“Drought can also cause long-term public health problems, including:
- Shortages of drinking water and poor quality drinking water;
- Impacts on air quality, sanitation and hygiene, and food and nutrition;
- And, more disease, such as West Nile Virus carried by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water.”
We can’t control most of the conditions that are causing the current megadrought, but one thing we can do is be water prepared. During a drought, you cannot trust your tap water to be safe (or even available).
Rather than relying on the government to “fix things,” take control by investing in a gravity-powered water filtration unit like the Alexapure Pro, ensuring your family will always have access to clean drinking water.
We also suggest reading and taking notes from our previous Survival Scout Tips, When the Government Shuts Off the Water.
Stay aware and be water prepared, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply