The western United States is suffering under a 20 year drought leading to billions of dollars in lost agricultural revenues and out of control wildfires.
By D. S. Mitchell and William Jones
Western state drought: A trauma to the ecosystem
Life on Planet Earth
Water is a requirement for all life on earth, whether it be plants, insects, fish, birds, or human beings. Beyond sustaining life, water is essential for our economic well-being. Water based activities make up a large part of the economy. For example, water shortages in agriculture have resulted in reductions in yield and revenue. Tourism and outside activities have declined. Water transportation is endangered in some areas. The fishing industry is suffering.
Lack of Precipitation
Continued low precipitation causes drought. Across the west and southwest, surface water (river, lake, stream and pond) is primarily a result of winter snows and rains. Then in the spring that snow melts and the snowmelt flows downstream from higher altitude areas until it is captured by dams and reservoirs. The water is stored and that is delivered gradually to the people and places that need it when then need it, theoretically. (farmers, urban areas).
Severe and Extreme
Severe, extreme, and exceptional drought conditions have become increasingly common throughout the western United States. The last 20 years has brought abnormally dry conditions to the region. These conditions have led to a wide range of problems. Agricultural production is down due to inadequate water for irrigation. The loss of bee hives threaten the pollination of crops and is in fact at a critical state. Many scientists are pointing to climate change and reduced water supplies killing not only bees but every other insect on the planet. Animals are dying because they have inadequate water to sustain them. Entire industries are dying because of the drought. It is a worldwide problem, but dramatically visible in the western United States.