Moderate to severe drought extended from the U.S. West Coast to the Rocky Mountains with large areas of extreme and pockets of exceptional drought, the latest monthly drought report from the National Centers for Environmental Information said, while many residents in the West got much more nervous than those cold words.
"Our sagebrush there are all dried, all the weed and all what we have," Michael Badback, a 54-year-old man from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, told Xinhua on Sunday. "They're sagebrush. The roots go further and further down to get water, but they're not the same color like they used to be."
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of three federally recognized tribes of the Nuche, or Ute people. Their tribal lands comprise 2,500 square kilometers in southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and small, isolated sections of Utah, where Badback's community is located.
According to U.S. Drought Monitor statistics, the area of the U.S. West experiencing moderate to exceptional drought was 73.5 percent at the end of October and the so-called Four Corners states, a region consisting of the southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and northwestern corner of New Mexico, was suffering from the disaster the worst.
"Everything is dry and it's just hard to live," said Badback, who grew up in White Mesa, a rural community in southeastern Utah with about 300 Native American residents. "I know we have this climate change, but they are sagebrush, the last weed in thousand years and lived through longer drought."
Badback said that due to the drought which lasted for about 20 years in the West, many young tribe members had left the community which was built in the 1950s and the population there had been decreasing year by year in the past two decades.
A study published this February by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), showed that the U.S. West had spent the last two decades in the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years. Meanwhile, researchers noted that human-caused climate change was a significant driver of the destructive conditions and offered a grim prognosis: even drier decades lie ahead.
"We now know from these studies that is dry not only from the context of recent memory but in the context of the last millennium," said Park Williams, a climate scientist at UCLA and the study's lead author.
Spencer Dill, a farmer living in western Colorado, was also familiar with the word "megadrought." He told Xinhua his hometown near the Rocky Mountains still had enough rain and snow and he heard many people recently moved from the south, including the Colorado River Basins and Grand Basin regions. More and more farmland and ranches became deserts because of water shortage.
According to American Rivers, an influential river conservation organization based in Washington, D.C., mandatory cutbacks triggered by water shortage made states in the West lose a huge number of water supply. In Pinal County of Arizona alone, more than 500,000 acre-feet (616.7 million cubic meters) of water was reduced.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service