Best of the West: Drought impacts farmers, rafting industry; Oregon’s air quality app; High Plains home to good jobs

Water, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Aug. 13, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

Persistent drought across the West continues to impact farmers, ranchers and residents. Rural communities, which do not have the benefit of large reservoirs that generally serve densely populated urban areas, are bearing the brunt of water shortages, according to Water Deeply. As Colorado River Basin reservoirs drop to near-record low levels, the possibility of unprecedented water shortage declarations rises.

Wildfires are concentrated in exceptionally dry areas in California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Montana and Idaho, according to U.S. Drought Monitor.

Washington is abnormally dry this year, and Oregon is even more so. “What we’re experiencing is part of what the entire Western United States is experiencing,” said Kristin Johnson-Waggoner with the Water Resources Program in Washington Department of Ecology.

In Colorado, the state’s $193 million rafting industry has taken a hit due to low water levels, with some companies scaling down operations and moving trips to other rivers.

Air Quality App: Air quality has improved in the U.S. in recent years, except in wildfire-prone areas. Wildfire smoke is currently clouding skies across the region and could pose long-term health consequences. To address this risk, a new Oregon app aims to quickly and easily show residents whether the air they’re breathing is safe.

WGA Member Hosts Coral Conference: American Samoa hosted the 40th meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force this week, bringing together experts from states, territories and federal agencies to discuss capacity building and disaster preparedness. The conference featured a visit to the world’s largest coral head, as well as sessions on emergency response and more. 

Now Hiring: Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota rank among the best places in the U.S. to find jobs that don’t require a college degree. Read about why these regional economies stand out for their high employment rates, and learn how the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative is bridging the skills gap. 

Revisiting the Rural West: Outside the high-profile and densely populated cities of the West, some small towns are struggling to maintain their way of life. The Forgotten Westerners offers an in-depth look at Montana’s growing divide between urban and rural communities.

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