DENVER (AP) — Gov. Jared Polis has activated Colorado’s drought plan to track impacts, save water, coordinate local responses and help hard-hit farmers following a federal assessment that determined that the state is abnormally dry or in drought for the first time in eight years.
The finding is consistent with a broader transformation of the Southwest amid climate change.
The designation came Thursday after a combination of less spring snowfall, warmer temperatures, snowpack melting, less rain and parched soil resulting in dying crops and forests and shrinking water sources, The Denver Post reported.
“We take it seriously,” the Democratic governor’s press secretary Conor Cahill said. “Our goal is to work with our federal partners to get assistance and resources to impacted communities.”
It’s the fourth time in two decades — following 2002, 2006 and 2012 — that the entire state was designed as abnormally dry or in drought.
These conditions have caused “reduced wheat yields this summer, reduced pasture forage and probably reduced corn yields as well,” said Peter Goble, climate and drought specialist in the state’s climatology office.
“Our temperatures are warming without an increase in precipitation to counteract that. Soil moisture available to crops, grasses, trees and other plants is dried up more quickly,” he said. “Given the warming temperatures, we need to be prepared as a state.”
The federal assessment also designated much of the West in some stage of drought after areas across the country have experienced extreme heats.
In July, Phoenix registered record-high heat with an average temperature of 98.9 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). In Sitka, Alaska, temperatures hit a record-tying 88 degrees (31 degrees) on July 31, and in Richland, Washington, the temperatures on July 30 topped 113 degrees (45 degrees).