Drought and Water Scarcity in the United States: Guest Post 2

Drought and Water Scarcity Trends in the Continental United States:

Parker Capps, 2011 Student, B.S.C.E.
Parker Capps, 2011 Student, B.S.C.E.

Parker Capps’s geospatial project report, May 2011

Drought is defined as a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, resulting in a water shortage for some activity, group, or environmental sector. It can be triggered by several things, including over farming, excessive irrigation, deforestation, and erosion. Drought can result in serious shortage of water for cultivation and cattle farms, famine, and population migration. (sources of definition and historical draught data: National Drought Integrated Information System, National Drought Mitigation Center)

Drought is a problem worldwide. One of the most infamous droughts America has known, the Dust Bowl, was during the 1930’s. This drought severely affected the Plains region, and covered up to sixty percent of the U.S. in its peak. Since that time, there were serious droughts in the 1950’s and the late 1980’s. Droughts continue to occur. Drought not only has an intense effect on the region it is in and its people, but also an adverse economic effect. According to the National Climatic Data Center, “drought has historically had the greatest impact on the largest number of people. Since 1980, 48 weather-related disasters have each caused at least 1 Billion dollars in economic losses. Of these 48 disasters, the greatest losses have been attributed to drought. Economic losses exceeded 40 Billion dollars in the droughts of 1980 and 1988, and the combination of drought and heat-related deaths totaled more than 5000 in each event. The drought of 2000 resulted in losses of 4 Billion dollars and 140 deaths”

Drought Map of Continental States, 1988
Drought Map of Continental United States, 2008

In this report, I studied the period from 1978 to 2008 to see the states most affected by drought, the states least affected by drought, and the states that remain in neutral territory. I created spatial maps using the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the United States, as shown for July of 1988, when most states were in moderate to high drought index. The states in red show the one’s most affected by drought in this time. I used the GeoMediaPro software for creating geospatial maps.

From this study, I found the top worst states affected by drought over the 30 year period. For the recent drought in 2008, I also suggest a possible mitigation strategy and costs for building reservoirs and canals to bring water from rivers and lakes to Nevada and California.

Dr. Uddin’s note: Drought can result in serious shortage of water for cultivation and cattle farms, famine, and population migration. Wildfire can also start due to dry weather during droughts, as seen in Texas drought of May-June 2011. During these months most of upper and lower Mississippi River basin states had torrential rain resulting in the Great Flood of 2011 but most of the flood water devastated many communities, created ecological disasters in the Delta,  and finally gone wasted in the Gulf.

Why can’t all this overflow and flood water from the Mississippi River be diverted through a system of canals and reservoirs to Texas and neighboring states, which have been suffering from low precipitation and severe drought for decades? This type of mitigation strategy has been worked out with cost estimates by Ms. Parker Capps.

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