Special Report

8 States Running Out of Water

8. South Carolina
> Pct. Severe drought
26.7%
> Pct. extreme drought: 0.0%
> Pct. exceptional drought: 0.0%

With more than one-quarter of the state’s land under severe drought conditions, nearly 2.8 million people in South Carolina live in drought areas. Earlier this summer, local governments encouraged several counties, including York and Lancaster, to adhere to water restriction policies.The effects of the state’s dry conditions extend beyond the limits of the drought’s borders. Agriculture is crucial to the South Carolina economy, and severe droughts are often responsible crop or pasture losses. Though the worst drought conditions are confined to a stretch of land across the middle of the state, the vast majority of South Carolina is either under moderate drought conditions or is abnormally dry. Only a sliver of land along the coast and the westernmost half of Oconee County remain unaffected.

7. Utah
> Pct. Severe drought
26.8%
> Pct. extreme drought: 0.0%
> Pct. exceptional drought: 0.0%

During the past three years, most of Utah has experienced abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions. Heavy August rainfall, which increases reservoir levels for the fall and winter months, have helped mitigate drought conditions. Despite this, the drought is parching 26.8% of Utah and is affecting an estimated 2.6 million people. In severe drought conditions, where crop and pasture losses are likely, farmers are especially vulnerable. The agricultural industry, which makes up 14% of the state’s economy, depends heavily on water supply and accounts for 82% of statewide water usage. Earlier this year, when statewide precipitation was just 47% of the yearly average, the USDA designated seven Utah counties as primary natural disaster areas. Farmers in the designated counties were eligible for emergency low-interest loans. Around this time, Utah’s state legislature approved a bill that grants about $8 million every year to preconstruction of the Lake Powell Pipeline, infrastructure that would help the state deal with future droughts by routing water from a dam site in Arizona to reservoirs in Utah.

6. Montana
> Pct. Severe drought
10.1%
> Pct. extreme drought: 18.8%
> Pct. exceptional drought: 0.0%

Over one-quarter of Montana is currently experiencing either severe or extreme drought conditions. In mid-July, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack informed Governor Steve Bullock that 15 state counties are considered natural disaster areas due to the ongoing drought. Though the worst conditions are confined to the western third of state, the drought is affecting roughly half of the state’s 1 million residents. In Butte, water usage restrictions are in effect. Households that water their lawns have to do so on certain designated days and never between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Violators can be fined and lose watering privileges altogether. Roughly a decade ago, the state’s Department of Agriculture established The Hay Hotline. Still active today, the service is intended to help ranchers who lost pasture land due to wildfires that can be common in droughts.


5. Idaho
> Pct. Severe drought
18.8%
> Pct. extreme drought: 29.3%
> Pct. exceptional drought: 0.0%

Nearly 50% of Idaho is currently in a state of either severe or extreme drought conditions. The worst of the drought stretches along Idaho’s western border and encompases the entire northern tip of the state, from the top of Idaho County through Boundary County. Nearly 1.5 million state residents are affected by the drought. Droughts create dry conditions that increase the likelihood of wildfires. Currently, there are wildfires burning in west-central and northern Idaho that have lead to the evacuation of residents and the deployment of over 1,000 firefighters. The drought in Idaho is a part of a much larger national pattern that encompasses much of the western United States. Idaho has experienced severe drought conditions every year since 2012. The state’s Department of Agriculture reinitiated the Idaho Rangeland Drought Task Group last year to help drought-affected farmers take advantage of assistance provided by federal and state agencies.

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