“Severe and sustained droughts are part of life in the Western U.S., resulting in water shortages, affecting agriculture, municipalities, tribes and ecosystem functions,” says the Bureau of Reclamation in a new web portal providing real-time drought-related information and details of drought actions.
“Climate change is altering the weather and streamflow patterns that framed the development of water and power systems across the West.”
Reclamation’s 2021 SECURE Water Act Report includes a drought-specific analysis using paleohydrology (tree rings), combined with projections of future climate conditions. The findings show that in the Western United States, the duration, severity, and frequency of drought will increase in the future.
“The impact of the current drought on Reclamation’s reservoirs has been substantial. With most facilities realizing below average inflows, storage across the West is also below average at many facilities. In California and in the Colorado River Basin, multiple reservoirs have reached 30-year storage lows for this time of year,” says the Bureau.
The ‘science-based web portal’ is designed to increase understanding of drought conditions and government efforts to mitigate these conditions.
The portal provides Bureau explanations and current information on science, drought actions, current conditions and “climate change visualizations that will help the public understand the complex drought conditions in the West.”
“Reclamation recognizes the 2021 water year is a historically difficult year for the 17 Western states and for Tribes, fisheries, wildlife, farmers and ranchers, and communities. We hope this tool will be a helpful resource for viewing real-time updates on drought conditions and learn more about what’s being done to combat this challenging drought situation,” said Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton.
“Users of this web portal will be able to explore data-driven mapping visualizations and delve into the new science and forecasting tools used to conduct water supply planning and optimization of water reservoir operations.”
The Department of the Interior has created a Drought Relief Interagency Working Group, which is intended to marshal “existing resources and working in partnership with state, local and Tribal governments to address the needs of communities suffering from drought-related impacts.”
The Working Group is to “identify and disburse immediate financial and technical assistance for impacted irrigators and Tribes. It is also developing longer-term measures to respond to climate change, including building more resilient communities and protecting the natural environment.”