The severe drought in the American West, a result of this winter’s historically bad snowpack, has worsened after another dry week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Huge swaths — 88% — of the western U.S. are in drought conditions, with 26% experiencing “exceptional” drought, a figure expected to grow as summer gets underway. Forecasters warn the lack of water and above-average temperatures are likely to lead to another extreme fire season.
“Much of the western snow melted one to four weeks early, including three to four weeks early in the Sierra,” NOAA forecasters reported Thursday. “Low snowpack, rapid melt out, and poor runoff efficiency have led to significant water supply concerns going into summer of 2021.”
More than a week before summer officially arrives, Nevada’s Lake Mead — the nation’s largest reservoir by volume — is at its lowest level recorded since it was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, exceeding a record low set in July 2016.
Drought conditions have prompted a tense standoff between farmers and Native tribes over dwindling resources in the Klamath Basin, near the California–Oregon border. Citing the law under the Endangered Species Act, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced in May it would cut off water to the more than 1,200 farmers who rely on the basin’s water — and now, some farmers are threatening to reopen the canal by force. Low water levels are endangering the survival of two native suckerfish — already threatened by agricultural runoff into the basin — that are sacred to Oregon’s Klamath Tribes. “We’re here today because those fish were here,” said Don Gentry, the chairman of the Klamath Tribes. “The C’waam creation story says, ‘if those fish die, the people die.’”
Originally published by Nexus Media.