The San Gabriel River passes over mud in January 2014 in California’s Angeles National Forest. California is suffering its worst drought on record.

Drought Regions Show High Levels of ‘Water Stress’

The World Resources Institute warns of economic, social and political consequences.

The San Gabriel River passes over mud in January 2014 in California’s Angeles National Forest. California is suffering its worst drought on record.

The San Gabriel River in January passes over mud in California’s Angeles National Forest. California is suffering its worst drought on record.

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California’s drought has become the state’s worst on record, draining reservoirs and destroying crops. Yet it’s far from unique.

Severely dry conditions are now afflicting about two-thirds of Texas, and droughts also are being felt in parts of Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

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The World Resources Institute, an environmental advocacy group, compared those dry regions with their respective levels of water consumption. Certain drought areas, it found, are still using huge amounts of water, which is putting “high” and “extremely high” levels of stress on their water supplies.

The World Resources Institute mapped different levels of water stress in the United States. Certain areas with “high” and “extremely high” levels, such as parts of California, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado, are experiencing droughts.
The World Resources Institute mapped different levels of water stress in the United States. Certain areas with “high” and “extremely high” levels, such as parts of California, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado, are experiencing droughts.

“Drought and water stress overlap in many regions facing water shortages in the United States,” Andrew Maddocks, communications coordinator for the Aqueduct project, wrote on the group’s website.

It’s a trend that poses potentially great dangers to local populations. “Climate change will generally make precipitation more extreme, variable and unpredictable in the years ahead,” Maddocks wrote, citing climate scientists. “Hotter average temperatures mean drier soil, so farms may face greater risks to their crops and ranchers to their herds, even if it rains more regularly.”

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have debated how best to address California’s drought, from intense water-use restrictions to lifting certain environmental measures aimed at protecting fish, which conservative lawmakers have alleged deprive farmers of water sources.

“Wherever drought and water stress overlap, reducing water use is an essential step toward long-term economic, social, and political stability,” Maddocks said.