What is a drought?
Getting rainfall less than usual affects the flow of streams and rivers, water levels in lakes, reservoirs, and wells, as well as soil moisture and plant life. When this pattern continues for several weeks, months, or years, eventually, the unusually dry weather is called a drought.
Arizona and the 2021 Drought
Arizona started drying out quickly since summer 2020 and the state has been in some form of drought since October 2020. That brought the driest and second-warmest year on record. Yet 2020 was only 0.03 inches from being the single driest year with a record of less than 2 inches of rainfall. Below is the Arizona drought map as of the first day of 2021 summer. There is no spot in the state where does not experience drought and most of the state ranked as Exceptional Drought. The entire City of Tucson is ranked as exceptional drought, the most extreme level of drought based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. It is worth highlighting that Arizona water supply is linked to Colorado River flow and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the county. Lake Mead has hit its lowest level this year, 2021, since it was filled for the first time 1930s. The Central Arizona Project Canal delivering Colorado River water to AZ states is expecting to take 30% less water than usual.
Lake Mead- (6/13)
Photo via https://www.goodfreephotos.com/
The figure above shows the trend of drought in Pima County for more than 20 years, from 2000 to the middle of 2021. The 5 classes of drought from D0 to D4 are shown on the graph. Where D0 denotes Abnormally Dry and D4 represents Exceptional Drought. The vertical axis shows the percentage of Pima County was in a certain type of Drought at each time.
As of June 1, 2021, about 60% of Pima County is experiencing the most severe class of drought, D4 Exceptional Drought, which started from November 2020. The same class of drought severity was only experienced one time in 2006 for about 3 months over the past 20 years. Climate Change is playing a role too, and we are experiencing conditions for a longer duration that barely happened before.
How Can We be Involved in Drought Mitigation?
The phenomena like floods and droughts usually happen on a big scale in a way that individual actions seem insignificant. It will help you to know that many small steps done by many people make a big difference. Per Pima County's suggestion, all individuals are asked to implement a voluntary reduction in water use. The City of Tucson (COT) recommends easy steps including installing high efficiency toilets and shortening shower time to use water more efficiency at home. Also, there are certain residential rebate and incentive programs offered by COT for water conservation measures including, rainwater harvesting, and gray water reuse.
More information can be found at COT website.
The good news is that conservation methods work where attempted! In Tucson, the rainwater harvesting could reduce homeowners’ water use on average by 10%, official say.