Counties with the worst droughts in Colorado

Written by:
May 20, 2024
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Counties with the worst droughts in Colorado

About 14% of the continental United States is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Winter storms brought heavy (in some areas, record-setting) rainfall and flooding to California, offering the state an expected two-year reprieve from widespread droughts that covered nearly 100% of the state from 2020 to 2022. But in other parts of the country, especially dry conditions continue. New Mexico currently is the state with the highest drought level, covering about 74% of the state's area.

In periods of drought, levels of major reservoirs and rivers can fall dramatically. Groundwater systems are also affected as shrinking water supplies impact agriculture and hydropower generation while increasing wildfire risk.

Periods of drought have intensified and become more frequent in recent years due to climate change. Scientists predict that even in low-emissions scenarios, much of the U.S. will be drier by the end of the century.

Stacker cited data from the U.S. Drought Monitor to identify the counties in Colorado with the worst droughts as of May 14, 2024. Counties are listed in order of percent of the area in drought conditions. "Abnormally dry" is not considered to be a drought but is included as a separate data point. Additional data for the state overall is also included. Any counties not experiencing drought are not included in the list. Counties are listed in order of drought severity.

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Emma Rubin // Stacker

Colorado statistics

- Abnormally dry: 30.6%
- Area in drought: 9.0% (#15 nationally)
--- Moderate drought: 7.6%
--- Severe drought: 1.4%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Kit Carson County

- Abnormally dry: 97.5%
- Area in drought: 0.6%
--- Moderate drought: 0.6%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Garfield County

- Abnormally dry: 34.1%
- Area in drought: 1.0%
--- Moderate drought: 1.0%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Montezuma County

- Abnormally dry: 98.3%
- Area in drought: 1.6%
--- Moderate drought: 1.6%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Conejos County

- Abnormally dry: 60.3%
- Area in drought: 2.8%
--- Moderate drought: 2.8%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Rio Blanco County

- Abnormally dry: 8.7%
- Area in drought: 6.7%
--- Moderate drought: 6.7%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Mesa County

- Abnormally dry: 75.7%
- Area in drought: 15.0%
--- Moderate drought: 15.0%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Archuleta County

- Abnormally dry: 68.5%
- Area in drought: 31.5%
--- Moderate drought: 31.5%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Bent County

- Abnormally dry: 49.3%
- Area in drought: 50.7%
--- Moderate drought: 46.4%
--- Severe drought: 4.3%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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La Plata County

- Abnormally dry: 44.6%
- Area in drought: 55.4%
--- Moderate drought: 55.4%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Cheyenne County

- Abnormally dry: 32.1%
- Area in drought: 67.9%
--- Moderate drought: 67.9%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

Kiowa County

- Abnormally dry: 28.3%
- Area in drought: 71.7%
--- Moderate drought: 71.7%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Baca County

- Abnormally dry: 10.4%
- Area in drought: 89.6%
--- Moderate drought: 89.6%
--- Severe drought: 0.0%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

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Prowers County

- Abnormally dry: 0.0%
- Area in drought: 100.0%
--- Moderate drought: 14.2%
--- Severe drought: 85.8%
--- Extreme drought: 0.0%
--- Exceptional drought: 0.0%

This story features data reporting and writing by Emma Rubin and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 23 states.

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