The US Department of Agriculture has named more than 1,000 counties – about a third of all counties nationwide – to be natural disaster areas. The drought-driven designation is the largest the USDA has ever made.

In Wyoming, all but a small corner in the northwest part of the state is currently dry, with designations ranging from Abnormally Dry to Extreme Drought.  

Todd Even of the Farm Service Agency in Wyoming says that in some areas it’s estimated that more than fifty percent of range land or grass hay crop has been lost.

Concerns about possible water shortages have lead the Riverton City Council to adopt a drought plan and implement mild restrictions. Under the plan’s level green, there are no restrictions. The current yellow level asks residents to conserve water voluntarily. Voluntary water conservation measures include fixing leaks and avoiding watering lawns during the hottest parts of the day.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is warning that the warm, dry weather this spring could drive up winter hay prices.

Wyoming’s snowpack is less than 30 percent of average, and Water Supply Specialist Lee Hackleman says farmers who get their water by diverting streams and rivers will be left high and dry.

“There’ll be a lot of people who will probably get their first cutting irrigated but won’t have any water for their second cutting,”
Hackleman said. “So there’s liable to be a hay shortage again this winter.”

Water specialists at the Natural Resources Conservation Service say that snowpack throughout the state is well below what’s average at this time of year. The northwest corner of the state is closest to what’s considered normal, but the state-wide average is 54 percent of that.

Water specialist for the NRCS, Lee Hackleman, says this could mean drought.