Uruguay is currently facing one of the worst droughts in its history, putting its agricultural industry and water supply at risk. The country is heavily concentrated in urban and suburban areas, making the situation even more challenging. The Canelón Grande reservoir, which was once intended for irrigation, has dried up to the point of visible cracks on the land. The reservoir also supplies one of the main drinking water distribution infrastructures in the country, putting the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area at risk. However, the government has implemented measures to ensure that the water shortage does not lead to a water cut.
The country’s agricultural sector has also been severely impacted, resulting in major losses for the national economy. Crops used to obtain grains have failed, leaving farmers with little options other than grazing cattle on the fields or storing the crops in silos for the winter. The Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Fernando Mattos, has stated that this is the greatest loss agriculture has seen in the country in the past 30 years.
In contrast, the western region of the United States is experiencing a different extreme weather event: heavy rain and snow after years of drought. California, which is heavily affected by climate change, is currently facing a mega-drought. However, since the beginning of the year, it has rained a lot in the region, which is usually water-scarce. Winter storms have left huge drifts of snow, which usually covers a third of California’s water needs. The heavy rains have also had a positive effect on groundwater levels. However, experts predict that it would take several more winters like this to return to normal levels.
Although the reservoir levels are rising again, the Colorado River is likely to benefit less from recent winter storms than rivers in other regions. The rainfall is a relief for the reservoirs, but it does not affect the dispute between riparian states over the amounts of water allocated. The western region of the United States will continue to face climate change impacts, as extreme weather events become more frequent.