Breaking down the effects of a drought that is affecting the entire Western U.S.

Almost half of the U.S. has been in a drought since the start of 2021.

Compounding factors, including low rainfall and snowpack, climate change and persisting droughts from previous years, have escalated into extreme dryness.

The prolonged dryness means low water levels are endangering fish species in Oregon and Colorado, 30% of California’s population is in a drought emergency, and the nation’s two biggest reservoirs on the Colorado River — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are two-thirds empty.