Editorial Letter: Dry Spell Drag

Aug. 18, 2021

This editorial letter is featured in WWD August 2021 issue as "Dry Spell Drag"

About the author:

Bob Crossen is senior managing editor for WWD. Crossen can be reached at [email protected]

As I write this, the drought in the U.S. is reaching its worst level of severity since 2011, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. As it so happens, this issue has a handful of pieces discussing the drought in addition to water reuse projects and information.

Regardless, drought conditions create a complex environment for water professionals and water resource managers. Not only does it stress the drinking water supply for local communities — some of which are among the largest cities in the country — but it also makes it difficult to tackle wildfires as trees and brush dry out from a lack of water.

To put this in context, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has used the levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell as drought indicators for many years. The levels seen in Lake Mead are reaching a point where the Bureau of Reclamation is prepared to announce a federal water shortage. In 2018, I visited Lake Mead and spoke to them about such a declaration as the drought at the time had gotten the bureau close to making it. The following year, it appeared the levels had rebounded, but the severity of the drought has increased since then.

These conditions are not new for the Western U.S. They have been part of the way of life for many years, but during periods of extreme drought, such as what is being experienced now, discussions and conditions change. More professionals are asking why resources are so stressed, what can be done, and how to build more resilient water resources for the future.

We’ve set up a living page on our website to catalogue those conversations with news and feature articles from around the internet. This page is updated daily with the latest headlines for you to follow drought conditions and challenges the drought is presenting to the Western U.S. If you have a story or a lead on some news for this page, reach out to us at [email protected]. Check out that page at bit.ly/2021drought to stay up-to-date with the latest on this year’s drought. If you’re interested in learning more about Lake Mead and Lake Powell, watch our video interview from 2018 at bit.ly/dayzerolakemead.

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