LINCOLN, Neb. - The western U.S. continues to endure dry conditions, and now scientists are using the term "megadrought" to describe the problem — which has existed for decades — with no end in sight.
"A megadrought is typically a drought event that has a long duration," Brian Fuchs, with the National Drought Mitigation Center, said to FOX Television Stations Tuesday.
"It’s pretty safe to say that over the last 20 years, 20 or 21 years, that we have had predominately drought conditions in the west with a few good years [of precipitation]," he continued.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 90% of the western U.S. is currently under a drought or experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah are considered to be in an "exceptional drought," the most intense category.
As the drought persists, Fuchs said it will continue to have a social and environmental impacts. Some municipalities, like the North Marin Water District in Navato, California, are now considering water conservation measures.
Fuchs also pointed to the increased danger of wildfires.
"We have a typical fire season in the western U.S. every year, but when we got drought on top of that, it tends to increase the amount of fires we do see," he continued.
Fuchs believes changing weather patterns are the culprits behind the megadrought.
"Well the one thing have we have seen pretty common over the last several decades has been the warmer temperatures in the west," he continued.
Fuchs said even a year of ample precipitation won’t make up for the drought, and it could take years for the affected states to recover.
"One year isn’t going to cure it all," he explained. "What we would have to see is more of a shift to a couple of wetter years, maybe some cooler weather embedded in there as well. That’s going to go a long way in helping to improve the situation."
Fuchs encourages people to do their best to conserve water to help mitigate the impacts of the drought.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.