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New Water and Drought Tools Help Forecast Climate and Security Risks

USGS Mapping Tool_2020By Marc Kodack

Ready, easy access to timely water-related information is a benefit to any community because the information can provide current conditions and/or short-term forecast estimates. The information may provide forewarning to impending conditions that may adversely affect people and/or property. Baseline conditions may also be established from which changes over time can be determined.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new mapping tool that shows daily natural water storage for 110,000 sub-regions in the lower 48 states relative to historical conditions for the same time of year. “Natural water storage…includes water present on the landscape such as standing water and water on trees, snowpack, soil water, and shallow groundwater. It does not include water in rivers or deep groundwater.”

The color-coded areas on the map vary from Very High to Very Low, where Very High means the day’s value is greater than 90% of all historic values for that sub-region versus Very Low where the day’s value is 90% lower than all historic values for that sub-region. Currently, previous day data are not available. This capability may be added in the future. The tool can be used to forecast droughts or flooding for military installations, local communities, regions, and states. When paired with the weekly Drought Monitor, the national mosaic of current and near-future water conditions can be viewed enhancing understanding of current conditions and the trajectories forecasted for climate change.

As online water-related tools become more readily available, communities will have opportunities to incorporate the information that these tools are based on to better prepare themselves for the greater variability that is likely in water sources, quality, and supply as the climate changes. These preparations ideally will increase community resilience and sustainability to maintain their viability.

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