Drought In The West Affects More Than Farmers

Jul 31, 2020

Mammoth Springs in a drought year, 2014.
Credit K Kendall

Most of the West has been experiencing drought this year. Bart Miller, with the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said that the water levels we are seeing this year are nothing new.

"It's kind of slightly below average for Wyoming and even more below average for the rest of the Colorado River Basin states," he said. "We're part of a trend, or at least if you look over the last 20 years, there's been consistent below average stream flow, snowpack and just water to work with."

Miller said areas in Colorado and other more southern states are much drier this year compared to Wyoming.

This winter had an average snowpack, but that it melted fairly early or evaporated quickly, he said. The inflow into Lake Powell from states including Wyoming, Colorado and Utah is projected to be 61 percent of average this year.

Miller said the drought will impact more than just farmers.

"Much of the state, at least half the state, is in one form of drought or another. That's having some impact, certainly on folks irrigating but also on folks who like to fish and recreate in the outdoors," he said. "As stream flows get low and as we get more and more years of drought, we're seeing some of those benefits and attributes becoming more challenging."

Miller said western states may need to start changing how they manage water.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.