Special Report

9 States Running Out of Water

9. Texas
> Pct. severe drought:
24.7%
> Pct. extreme drought:
14.9% (5th highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought:
3.3% (4th highest)

For the first time since 2006, the current drought, which according the National Weather Service began almost five years ago, engulfed almost all of Dallas. The drought is widespread across Texas, and while still crippling, was not as severe as 2014. For the week ended April 15, 2014, about 44.1% of Texas was in severe to exceptional drought conditions. For the week ended April 14 this year however, those conditions applied to about 24.7% of the state’s land, the ninth highest nationwide. Precipitation levels have been below normal throughout much of the state each year since the drought began in October 2010. Based on land usage, the most severe impact of the drought conditions in Texas could be on cattle production. While about three-quarters of Texas land area is used for agriculture, most of that land provides pasture for raising cattle, the state’s leading commodity. With pastureland unavailable, cattle ranchers use more costly grain to feed the cattle. They also rush the lower weight livestock to market, which increases supply and can lead to lower prices and income. The severe drought is affecting about 28% of Texans.

8. Kansas
> Pct. severe drought:
27.7%
> Pct. extreme drought:
4.9% (7th highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought:
0.0% (tied–the lowest)

Severe to exceptional drought conditions, while affecting almost 28% of Kansas in the week ended April 14, are significantly improved from one year ago when such conditions affected over 70% of the state. The most intense drought conditions apply to the western and southern portions of the state. The USDA designated 27 counties in that part of Kansas “primary disaster areas” this year, making farmers in those areas eligible for low interest loans. Governor Sam Brownback 2014 declaration of drought emergencies in 56 counties making up more than half of Kansas remains in effect. Statewide, precipitation was 19% of normal in March, according to the Kansas Water Office. Precipitation in April in Kansas also is expected to be below normal. MDA Weather Services, a Maryland-based commodity firm, is forecasting that the Kansas 2015 winter wheat crop will yield 292 million bushels, down from the state average of 329 million bushels for the past decade. About 22% of Kansas residents are affected by the current severe to exceptional drought.

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7. Arizona
> Pct. severe drought:
29.5%
> Pct. extreme drought:
1.0% (9th highest)
> Pct. exceptional drought:
0.0% (tied–the lowest)

An estimated 325,700 Arizonans, or 5.1% of the state’s population, are affected by the continuing severe to exceptional drought, the smallest share of any of the nine states with the most serious drought conditions. About 29.5% of the land in the state is affected by the severe to exceptional drought, slightly more than half of the 57.1% that was affected in 2014. Drought conditions worsened in the eastern part of the state in March, with the drought levels in parts of four counties reclassified as severe or extreme. The state may experience even more serious conditions in the future. According to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) snowmelt into the Lower Colorado River Basin reservoir, which supplies water to Arizona, has been very low and largely depleted. Rippey also noted critically low reservoir levels in Arizona, a long-running problem for the state.