Drought. It may seem like the buzzword of the moment, but the dry spell plaguing nearly one-third of the country is much more than a trending topic.
In California, the historic four-year drought has hit an all-time extreme, with continuously low precipitation and snowpack, increasingly high temperatures, and depleting groundwater influencing the latest mandate handed down from Gov. Jerry Brown on May 5: Californians must cut overall potable urban water use by 25%.
Now, Washington State has joined the drought conversation, with Gov Jay Inslee declaring a statewide drought emergency on May 15.
Neighboring Oregon also could be headed down the same path as conditions worsen in the western part of the state. “Oregon has been in some form of a drought for the past four years, but this year is the worst because of the snowpack,” said Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Service Deputy Director, according to KEZI News.
Even scientists in British Columbia are considering the possibility of the drought making its way into the region. For now, the province is far from the crisis in California, but low snowpack closed several ski slopes and researchers predict the salmon run likely will be affected this summer. Experts are calling for preemptive measures.
“The best strategy for you and for the public would be: Let’s be precautionary and why don’t we start conservation measures right now instead of waiting until we have a crisis,” Hans Schreier, a watershed management professor at UBC, told CBC News.
Of course, the drought is impacting nearly every industry from farming to manufacturing, and the construction industry is not immune. For now, it remains unclear if or how building materials could be affected by the drought, but as it lingers, the lumber supply could be at risk.
Matters could become even more compounded as a threat of serious wildfire looms in Washington and California, where upwards of 12.5 million trees have died.
“The risky conditions come less than a year after a spate of destructive wildfires struck the Pacific Northwest, writes E&E reporter Elizabeth Harball. “Last summer, Washington saw its biggest wildfire recorded in state history, the Carlton Complex, which destroyed over 300 homes.”
Structures in the path of the dying redwoods could become a victim, with the possibility of falling trees crashing down in populated areas, putting roofs in danger.
Meanwhile, reports indicate new housing starts have slowed, possibly as a result of the drought. Despite these figures, however, regions in the state still are issuing building permits, including Sacramento and Orange counties, two areas with continued anticipated growth.
Other regions of the country also are under close watch, with the U.S. Drought Monitor recording unreasonably dry conditions in some areas of the Southeast and Northeast.
Some slight relief could be on the way thanks to government
funding. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced May 20 that the
U.S. government will invest nearly $50 million in water conservation and reuse
projects in 12 drought-stricken Western states, according to OregonLive.