The Western U.S. is being hit with droughts across several ranges of time. There’s longer-term dryness from Nevada and Arizona that causes higher levels of dust to melt snowpack in the Rockies faster than normal. Colorado has too much water in some places, after nearly a decade of too little along with several years of particularly severe wildfires. But California might take the cake. While flying from the Mammoth Lakes area to LAX, adjacent to the Owens Valley (one of L.A.’s largest and oldest water supplies), the region is almost totally barren. Streams and lakes have disappeared. That’s just one of many examples. The water supply is being counted in months rather than years at this point.
But there’s been a shortage of stories connecting that with the larger water crisis. It gets media attention when something dramatic is happening, and so coverage is episodic rather than extensive. Until now. ProPublica stepped in and released a series detailing the issues in California, as well as damage to the Colorado River. It’s enlightening and terrifying. It’s also a wonderful candidate to be translated into another medium besides text. Come on, animators and illustrators. Water issues tend not get the attention they deserve until it’s too late.