Nine Cities Running Out of Water

9. Santa Fe, N.M.
> Extreme drought coverage (2013): 76.7%
> Exceptional drought coverage (2013): 16.7%
> Population: 89,284

The entirety of the Santa Fe area has been in a state of exceptional drought — the worst possible type — for the past five weeks. Already, the area has been consistently under extreme drought — the second-worst level — since mid-February. The drought in much of the state contributed to the rapid spreading of the Tres Lagunas fire which burned 16 square miles of land — the equivalent of close to a third of the size of the Santa Fe urban area — near the city earlier this summer. However, according to the NOAA, drought conditions in much of the state are expected to improve through the end of the summer and into the fall.

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8. Albuquerque, N.M.
> Extreme drought coverage (2013): 76.7%
> Exceptional drought coverage (2013): 43.3%
> Population: 741,318

The majority of the state of New Mexico is in a state of extreme drought. The state’s largest city, Albuquerque, has been completely under the worst possible level of drought since the end of April. This is the city’s second major drought in the last three years — it was under extreme drought for most of 2011. Much-needed heavy storms hit the area last week, but experts caution this is likely not enough to help the parched land fully recover. National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Jones told the Associated Press, “It’s making a little dent in places … but [the drought] is something that developed over several years … and it will take several years for the state to recover, assuming we get normal or above normal monsoons.”Jones also noted that Albuquerque was roughly a year behind its average three-year rainfall.

7. Corpus Christi, Texas 
> Extreme drought coverage (2013): 79.1%
> Exceptional drought coverage (2013): 14.1%
> Population: 320,069

Nearly all of Corpus Christi has been in a state of extreme drought since early March. As a result, the city enacted restrictions on the use of water in late June. Among the mandatory restrictions are a ban on the residential use of sprinklers and car washing more than once a week, as well as the restriction of washing sidewalks and homes, unless expressly done for business or public-health purposes. In the city of Kenedy, about halfway between Corpus Christi and San Antonio, water shortage and well failures led to the city diverting water from the local prison. This left inmates unable to shower for a week.

6. Brownsville, Texas
> Extreme drought coverage (2013): 81.1%
> Exceptional drought coverage (2013): 10.1%
> Population: 217,585

Since 2011, there has been a total of two weeks in which Brownsville, Texas, was not in at least a state of low-level drought. There have been extreme drought conditions for past the 23 straight weeks. According to The Brownsville Herald, as of early July, the last substantial rain in the area was April 28. The city announced a voluntary water restriction in April, asking residents to avoid non-essential use, particularly for lawn irrigation. Brownsville is the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, which has had an ongoing dispute with Mexico for the country’s failure to deliver water to the valley as agreed in a 1944 treaty.

5. Harlingen, Texas
> Extreme drought coverage (2013): 83.6%
> Exceptional drought coverage (2013): 11.5%
> Population: 135,663

The entirety of the Harlingen urban area has been in a state extreme drought since early March. In fact, more than 56% of the area on average has been under extreme drought since the start of 2011. Many farmers have found that they are unable to grow cotton and corn due to the drought, or raise livestock because of the rising cost of animal feed. The area’s drought is expected to persist through the fall, according to the NOAA.

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