The drought that has been present in the Midwest and western part of the United States has garnered the attention of the Biden-Harris administration. Due to the regions’ excessive dryness, the White House has launched a drought relief working group that will address the urgency of the water crisis.
“In the United States, intense droughts threaten major economic drivers in rural communities such as agriculture and recreation, disrupts food systems and water supplies, endangers public health, jeopardizes the integrity of critical infrastructure, and exacerbates wildfires and floods. With our interagency Working Group, we will collaborate with Tribes, agricultural producers, landowners, and rural communities to build regional resilience to drought,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Vilsack is correct about the intensity of the drought. In the western region, which includes Montana, drought conditions increased in the report released April 22 for conditions on April 20, as compared to a week prior. More than 80% of the region is considered to be in drought, with 21.05% considered in exceptional drought, the most severe category on the map.
Drought conditions did not change significantly in the High Plains region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, or in the Midwest region, which includes Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Here's a state-by-state look at this week's Drought Monitor:
Iowa: Iowa's drought conditions remained relatively unchanged since last week. Severe drought decreased to 7.62% from 7.83%, while moderate drought increased from 4.8% to 5.01%. Abnormally dry conditions also increased slightly from 26.4% to 28.13%. Those conditions are a large improvement, however, over where the state was three months ago, at the start of the year and at the start of the water year following a sudden and severe drought last summer.
Minnesota: Due to the state’s current drought situation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued a red flag warning to certain counties. According to the Minnesota DNR, A Red Flag Warning means the area is experiencing critical weather conditions that are ideal for wildfire, including strong winds and low humidity. Do not burn while the Red Flag Warning remains in effect and check any burning done recently to ensure the fire is out. Any spark could become a wildfire under Red Flag conditions. However, the state’s overall drought conditions have improved significantly. Last week 56.33% of the state was not experiencing drought conditions, whereas this week the percent has gone up to 67.44% not experiencing drought.
Montana: Montana had another rough week, with percentages in all three drought categories rising compared to last week. The extreme drought percentage rose from 8.46% to 10.91% this week. Only 11.78% percent of the state is not in a Drought Monitor category, meaning 88.22% of Montana is battling drought or abnormally dry conditions.
Nebraska: Nebraska drought conditions did not see much change over the past week. The severe drought percentage stayed at 7%. However the abnormally dry percentage increased slightly this week, from 37.95% last week to 38.82% this week.
North Dakota: More than three quarters of the state of North Dakota is in the extreme drought category at 75.85%. Severe drought comes in at 17.14%, slightly down from last week’s percent of 17.19%, while the moderate drought category increased from 4.8% to 4.85%. The state’s abnormally dry percentage remains the same, coming in at 2.16%. Despite the slight precipitation the state experienced over the weekend, the entire state is officially considered to be abnormally dry or worse.
South Dakota: South Dakota’s extreme drought category did not budge this week, still remaining at 19.42%. The severe drought percentage dipped to 16.54%, from last week’s 20.22%, while moderate drought increased to 36.72% from last week’s 33.03%. Only 5.02% of South Dakota is not experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions.
Wisconsin: Compared to the other states in the region, Wisconsin’s drought is considerably mild. The state’s moderate drought percentage is 0.74%, the same as last week, while the abnormally dry percentage decreased from last week's 36.92% to 36.01%.