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Urban sprawl in Henderson, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas. Photo: David McNew/Getty Image

Even as population growth in the U.S. as a whole slows down, numbers are still rising in the Southwest and Mountain West.

  • One problem: many of these communities are among the most drought-prone in the country, and are likely to get even drier.

By the numbers: In a post this week for the Economic Innovation Group, Daniel Newman calculated that the driest group of communities in the Southwest averaged a total of 245 weeks in severe drought between January 2010 and July 2021.

  • Over the same time period, those places added an additional nearly 7.4 million people, increasing the population by 10% to more than 81.4 million people.
  • Counties mostly in the Northeast and the Midwest that spent less than a year cumulatively in severe drought over the past decade grew by only 5.7 million residents.

What's next: Population projections by NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center estimate that the U.S. population will grow by nearly 54 million through 2040, of which nearly half will be in counties that have spent more than three years in severe drought over the past decade.

The bottom line: In the age of air conditioning and irrigation, deserts haven't been an impediment to growth — simply gaze upon Phoenix, a city of more than 1.7 million that averages a little over 9 inches of rainfall each year.

  • But moving more and more people into regions that are bone dry and getting drier isn't exactly good climate change adaptation.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

36 mins ago - World

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.

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