America’s Drought

Driving the need for water supplies

The National Drought Mitigation Center defines drought as "a normal, recurrent feature of climate, although many erroneously consider it a rare and random event,- whereby a region or regions experience severe water shortage." Drought can occur at any time of year and in any region of the U.S. for weeks, months and even years at a time. Several western states are currently experiencing a drought in its ninth year.

Drought has an impact on every sector of the economy:

  • Reduced productivity and devastation of crop and range lands causing higher food prices and direct losses to the agricultural industry.
  • • Unemployment from drought-related declines in agricultural production.
  • Increased energy costs to consumers associated with substituting more expensive processes, like burning oil, for hydroelectric power.
  • The alteration of our daily routines from municipal water restrictions.

Drought costs billions of dollars every year:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has estimated that drought costs the United States $6-8 billion annually, while floods and hurricanes annually average $241 billion and $1.2 to $4.8 billion, respectively.

Drought can encompass and impair major regions of the U.S.:

  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), long-term drought rapidly expanded during the first half of 2002 to reach peak area coverage of about 39 percent of the country.
  • The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) noted that in 2002, drought over large portions of 30 states including the western states, the Great Plains, and much of the eastern U.S. caused damages estimated to cost more than $10 billion.
  • For 2002 the USDA designated counties in 47 states across the country as agricultural disaster areas eligible for assistance due to drought impacts on farm production.
  • While rainfall is always welcome in dry states. It unfortunately, does not solve drought conditions. Most rainfall cannot be captured or eventually flows into the sea. The amount of rain is oftentimes not enough to replenish severely depleted ground-water supplies. The melt-off from snow caps, on the other hand, can alleviate the extent of a drought.
  • In 2002, the drought had the largest impact on California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Montana. These states continue to encounter drought conditions to this day.

Drought is not a rare but regular occurrence:

NOAA found that there have been 12 different drought events since 1980 that resulted in damages and costs exceeding $1 billion each.

Drought Monitor
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Season Drought
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"Where there is scarcity, population increase aggravates it."

--U.S. President's Council on Sustainable Development


"In the thirsty, growing cities...simple conservation simply won't do the trick."

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The New Water Supply Coalition. 1750 H Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20006. Ph: 202.737.0700 Fax: 202.737.0455