Drought conditions in Western states in summers of 2021, 2022 were the most intense in 20 years

As of Sept. 19, the U.S. Drought Monitor classified more than 18% of land in the Western states as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Data reported by USDM show that drought in the Western states during the summers of 2021 and 2022 exceeded the intensity of all past droughts in the region since 2000.

Drought conditions in the Western states gradually subsided in the latter months of 2021 but began intensifying again during the first half of 2022. The USDM categorizes drought in a region according to soil moisture, streamflow, and precipitation levels. Regional designations are primarily based on historical weather patterns.

For agriculture, drought can mean diminished crop and livestock outputs, as well as reduced farm profitability. Drought also reduces the quantity of snowpack and streamflow available for diversions to irrigated agricultural land. These impacts can reverberate throughout the local, regional, and national economies.

Find additional information on the USDA’s, Economic Research Service newsroom page, Drought in the Western United States.