Americans won’t stop moving to drought-stricken areas

New Laws California
In this Feb. 4 2014 file photo, a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, California.
Photograph by Rich Pedroncelli — AP

Who would want to live in a place plagued by drought?

A lot of people, apparently.

A new report from the Brookings Institution that examined recent Census data found that Americans are flooding to areas affected by drought. From 2000 through July 2014, the United States’ population surged by 45.2 million—25.8 million or 57% of that growth happened in counties in some sort of drought, specifically areas in California and the Southwest. Brookings reports that the influx of residents in these regions reflects the evolving labor and housing markets, but it also has “far-reaching implications for water infrastructure.”

Here’s a look at where the U.S. population is growing:

Brookings Institution County Population Growth 2000-July 2014

The areas with the largest population increases overlap all too nicely with the areas on the map below where drought is the worst:


Brookings Institution Drought Map June 2015

“The largest population gains,” Brookings says, “have often been concentrated in the driest counties overall.” Of the ten counties where population grew the most since 2000, seven are in the midst of a drought right now. For instance, the population of Los Angels County and Riverside County grew by almost 1.6 million in this time span, and they’re dealing with some of the most exceptional drought conditions nationally. San Diego County and Maricopa County, which is near Phoenix, follow closely behind.


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