The Seven States Running Out of Water

7. Oklahoma
> Pct. of state in severe drought: 83.2%
> Pct. of state in extreme drought: 56.7% (4th highest)
> Pct. of state in exceptional drought: 9.7% (6th highest)

Over half the area of Oklahoma currently suffers from extreme drought — the second worst level listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Oklahoma shares this distinction with just four other states. Drought conditions have actually improved since the start of the year. The percentage of the state facing exceptional drought — the worst category of drought — has fallen from 37% at the start of the year to less than 10% currently. In January, the USDA declared a large part of the winter wheat belt, spanning from Texas to North Dakota, as a disaster area due to the lack of moisture. According to the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, recent precipitation has not been enough to help the winter wheat crop in the state that had to be planted in dry soil.

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6. Wyoming

> Pct. of state in severe drought: 83.7%
> Pct. of state in extreme drought: 54.7% (5th highest)
> Pct. of state in exceptional drought: 10.1% (5th highest)

Wyoming is one of the driest states in the country, a condition not likely to improve in the near future. According to the National Weather Service, the drought is expected to persist or worsen in most of the state over the next few months. The most critical drought problems are taking place in the eastern portion of the state. In the summer of 2012, Governor Matt Mead had to ask the federal government for disaster relief due to the drought. During the year before the request, ranchers working on non-irrigated land had lost about half their pasture grass and hay production because of the drought, a state agriculture official told Reuters.

5. South Dakota
> Pct. of state in severe drought: 86.3%
> Pct. of state in extreme drought: 67.5% (2nd highest)
> Pct. of state in exceptional drought: 20.1% (4th highest)

More than two-thirds of South Dakota suffers from extreme drought, the second highest portion of any state. Additionally, South Dakota is one of just four states where more than 20% of its area faces exceptional drought. As with many other states, much of South Dakota’s winter wheat crop was hurt by the lack of precipitation. According to the USDA, at the end of February, 66% of winter wheat crop was considered to be in poor or very poor condition, up from 31% in February 2012.

4. Colorado
> Pct. of state in severe drought: 89.0%
> Pct. of state in extreme drought: 48.1% (7th highest)
> Pct. of state in exceptional drought: 21.2% (3rd highest)

Colorado is one of five states where all of its area is considered to be in moderate drought, with nearly 90% of the state experiencing severe drought. With the exception of the Northeast corner of the state, the drought is expected to either persist or get worse over the next several months. Yet even most the Northeast corner is experiencing either extreme or exceptional drought. Due to the ongoing problems, several of Colorado’s largest municipal water providers are considering restricting spring and summer lawn-watering, potentially limiting landowners to watering their grass just twice a week. Crop production declined significantly in 2012 compared to 2011, with wheat production falling 9.3%, while corn production falling a whopping 29%.

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