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By Henry Fountain

© The New York Times Co.

The West this year is locked in an extreme drought that is one of the worst on record. But for a large part of the region, the only thing that makes this year different is the severity of the conditions. Much of the Southwest is in the throes of a megadrought.

Simply put, a megadrought is a period of extreme dryness that lasts for decades. Within that period, there may be occasional better, wet, years, but the respite is brief. The dryness soon returns, and drought maintains its long-term grip.

For the Southwest — including Arizona, Nevada and Utah and parts of California, Colorado and New Mexico — the drought has lasted two decades.

There have been wet years here and there, including the winter of 2016-17, when huge storms hit California (and led to a different set of problems, including a nightmarish wildfire season), and 2019, when a wet spring lifted much of Arizona out of drought, briefly, for the first time in years.





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