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Dried-out fields and dwindling reservoirs are becoming all too common across the United States as companies, farms and municipalities stagger along under years-long droughts. Worsening dry conditions affect two-thirds of Texas. California’s historic drought shows no signs of improvement. Exceptional to moderate drought conditions extend in pockets from Oklahoma north through Minnesota. And in Colorado, The Denver Post wrote, “comparisons to the Dust Bowl are no longer hyperbole — they’re accurate.”
“Years of Living Dangerously,” a new Showtime series about climate change, turned its lens on how drought devastated the small town of Plainview, Texas in its first episode, which aired Sunday night. Drought drove a Cargill beef-processing plant — Plainview’s largest employer — to close in 2013. More than 2,000 jobs disappeared in a town of 22,000.
In Plainview — and every other drought-stricken place across the United States — a precipitous drop in rainfall is only part of a much broader story. Underlying water stress is one important piece of that complicated puzzle. When drought strikes where baseline water stress is high, it exacerbates regions’ water woes.