The Great American Drought

There have been recorded incidents of drought in America since long before Europeans arrived, dating back to at least the thirteenth century.

Droughts are a perfectly normal weather phenomenon and will always be present in American life. In fact, chances are high that at any given point in time some location in the United States is experiencing some form of drought, ranging in severity from abnormally dry conditions to extreme drought conditions. In the past 15 years, every state in the nation has experienced some state of drought.

Every now and then, though, a confluence of factors merge to create severe droughts with far reaching economic impacts. One such drought was the infamous Dust Bowl of the American Midwest during the 1930s. Another, a rival to the Dust Bowl as the worst drought in US history, is the 2012–2015 North American Drought.

California Drought

Since the opening of the twenty-first century, drought conditions have been migrating throughout each of the 48 contiguous states. It started, and persisted for much of the decade, in the Southeast; at different times, it spread to the Northeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountain Region, parts of Canada, the Midwest, the Southwest, and the Northeast.

California and the rest of the Southwestern US have been hit hardest. They experienced considerable drought conditions from 2006 to 2009, and from 2010 to 2015.

A number of conditions occurring at once have exacerbated and lengthened the drought in California. Primarily, there has been less precipitation than normal — 2013 was California’s driest year in 130 years of recordkeeping. Higher than normal temperatures reduce the amount of groundwater available for evaporation, which in turn prevents more rain from falling.

The situation in the Southwest is dire. None of California’s reservoirs are filled to their historical average capacity. In fact, water levels are far, far below average — California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, is only 35% full, roughly half its average capacity. Exchequer Reservoir, an important reservoir in the agriculturally important Central Valley, is filled to only 9% capacity.

Water Conservation Tips

Droughts like this may seem like regional issues, but their effects can be felt far and wide. The vast majority of American produce is grown in California and farmers are struggling to keep production high enough to meet domestic demand.

As its affects radiate across the country, so too can the solutions come from across the country. You and your customers or constituents can take simple water conservation steps at home today that, if enough people follow them, can make great strides toward lessening the impact of the drought in California. Here are a few easy tips that anybody can implement right away:

· Know water usage habits — Knowing the amount of water you and your constituents use, and how it is used, is the first step in reducing usage

· Keep showers short, seven minutes or less

· Recommend that your constituents use flow meter bags to determine whether or not they should replace the current shower head with a high efficiency model; recommend the same for kitchen and bathroom sinks

· Wash dishes in a filled sink, as opposed to running the water continuously

· Run dishwashers and washing machines only when totally full

· Urge your constituents to upgrade toilets to high efficiency models, or install fill cycle diverters or toilet tank banks to minimize their water use

To learn how you can help, download AM Conservation Group’s free Water Conservation Checklist for Homeowners or visit www.amconservationgroup.com.

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