The southwest drought that has hammered drinking water and agricultural water supplies alike, has been linked to climate change by NOAA.
The drought is the most severe on record for the southwestern United States, with “precipitation at the lowest 20-month level documented since 1895.” In addition, from January 2020 through August 2021, the region experienced “the third-highest daily average temperatures measured since record-keeping began near the end of the 19th century.”
The region is in the midst of a “La Niña” weather pattern, which can cause drier than average weather in the southwest. The pattern prompted the drought to begin in 2020 after a dry winter. However, unusually high temperatures made the drought worse by drying out surface and soil moisture and significantly reducing snowpack, which, in turn, caused reservoirs to be depleted more quickly.
Those in the region that rely on the Colorado River for water faced their first ever water delivery shortfall. Water resource managers for the river basin had to make tough calls on whose water would be cut. Unfortunately, farmers lost out.
According to the report, the drought is likely to persist through 2022 and beyond, with California and some of the Plains states hit the hardest and some relief expected for the Pacific Northwest.