Drought conditions have improved in much of the Western United States compared with the last two years

Stacked line chart showing levels of drought in Western United States between 2000 and July 2023.

As of July 2023, drought conditions have improved across much of the Western United States (consisting of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) compared not only with earlier in the year, but also with 2021 and 2022. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, on July 11, 2023, 3 percent of land in the Western States was classified as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, with an additional 8 percent classified as severe. This is down from June 2023, when 18 percent of land in Western States was classified as in extreme or exceptional drought. Significant precipitation and snowpack accumulation over the 2022–2023 winter and spring has reduced the prevalence of drought in the area, notably in California. However, conditions remain dry in Kansas and Nebraska where severe or worse drought conditions affect 55 and 48 percent of land, respectively. Data reported by U.S. Drought Monitor show Western drought conditions intensified during summer 2021, then gradually subsided between October and December 2021. They intensified again during the first half of 2022 before starting to subside again. For agriculture, drought means diminished crop and livestock outputs and reduced profitability if adaptive measures such as irrigation are not used. Drought also reduces the quantity of snowpack and streamflow available for diversions to irrigated agricultural land. These impacts can reverberate throughout local, regional, and national economies. Find additional information on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Newsroom page Drought in the Western United States.

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