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Drought Conditions Better Than Last Year, Could Continue Improving

Drought monitor outlook of Wyoming
Brian Fuchs
National Drought Mitigation Center

Wyoming is seeing slightly less drought now than this time last year, from 24 percent down to 20. But it’s still having an effect, especially since the state has experienced drought conditions for the last 20 years. Southern Wyoming is getting the worst of it, particularly in parts of Sweetwater and Carbon counties with abnormally dry conditions.

Chris Nicholson, director of the Water Resources Data System, said it’s due to low snowpack in the Lower Green and Little Snake Rivers. Both are part of the Colorado River system that feed Lake Mead, which has received only about half its usual flow this year. He said he's pleasantly surprised there’s not more drought elsewhere in the state, particularly the southeast corner in Laramie and Albany counties.

"It wasn’t a great snowpack year. We were slightly below normal for a lot of that."

He said, “There was portions of Upper North Platte drainage that were pretty dry. And so, I’m surprised we don’t have more drought in that region.”

A hot and wet summer though could improve conditions in the southern part of the state. Nicholson said the rest of the summer is expected to bring a healthy amount of rain.

"We’re in a pretty low category of drought now, and those conditions should improve. And so, there’s no, typically, a magic bullet that one major rain storm and we’re out of drought. The hope is, is that we’ll get some of those sustained rainstorms," he said.

Nicholson added the drought primarily affects agriculture since irrigation relies on reservoirs to be filled by snowpack.

This year, Colorado is experiencing much worse drought conditions, up into the exceptional and extreme categories.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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