According to many climate experts, three of the primary impacts we will see as a result of global climate change are significant adjustments in rainfall patterns, leading to both flooding and periods of significant drought, both with increasing severity. This year, while developing our inaugural Banyan W.A.T.E.R. Report, we took a look at our rainfall data, collected from sites in 16 states across the country and grouped it into regions, to understand how annual rainfall patterns may be changing and what this means for droughts and floods.
What Banyan Water discovered in this process is that annual rainfall amounts are increasingly erratic. In the south region we saw rainfall decrease from 2017-18 by over 10%, while the following year we observed a massive increase in rainfall by over 145%. Similarly in the western part of the United States year over year rainfall fluctuated greatly. In 2017 we saw only 22.7″ of rainfall, as much of the west was still struggling with drought conditions. The following year saw a 60% increase in annual rainfall, before dropping off in 2019 to 32.8 inches, approximately an 11% decrease. Across the midwest rainfall has remained relatively consistent over the past three years, however what we found is somewhat troubling in that rainfall has consistently decreased, first by 5% in 2017-2018, and 9% in 2018-2019. If this pattern continues it will put significant pressure on a region dominated by agricultural industry.
What lies behind this rainfall data is its impact on drought and flooding. Catastrophic weather events like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 showed us the devastation that flooding can cause in metropolitan areas. But what is even more frightening is the smaller storms could cause significant flooding, not only in coastal areas, but also in inland regions near any river or water source. Research out of the University of Iowa suggests that various regions of the country, particularly the northern half are seeing strong evidence toward the increasing frequency of flood events. Climate scientists also generally agree that warming average global temperatures are going to cause an increase in extreme precipitation events, leading to increased flood risks across any region of the United States.
Equally alarming is the risk of drought events. We all know water is the key to life, but often the water footprint of the food we eat, clothes we wear, and products we consume gets lost throughout the supply chain. As observed in California from 2014-2017 drought can threaten the very fabric of American life. There are a number of ways climate change can contribute to drought effects. In addition to erratic rainfall patterns warmer temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates from soil. Wintertime snowfall pattern changes can affect the water supply throughout the entirety of the year. Meteorological events such as atmospheric rivers create varied and unpredictable snow patterns across much of the Western US, causing areas from California to the Midwest and South to have unreliable water supply in the spring and summer months. Additionally, recent US droughts have been the most expansive on record.
With risks only continuing to increase it is inevitable that there will be periods of both major floods and extended periods of drought for all of us over the next decade. If you haven’t considered and planned for how this will affect your business and you life, now is the time to start. One of the first steps is to inventory your water operation. Collection of real time data through tools like Banyan’s Indoor Insight and Irrigation Insight are smart ways to leverage technology to understand your water consumption habits and implement a course of action in the near term, rather than waiting for disaster to strike. If you’re curious about where to start the process speak with one of our water management experts today!