Living with Drought

It’s no secret that much of Montana is dry. Montanans, on average, make do with less than 15” of precipitation per year. This means, for many communities across the state, there’s not a lot of wiggle room in terms of moisture. A shortage of even a few inches of rain or snow at the wrong time can turn the drought map red. And no community is immune. Even in the Northwest, amid the influence of Pacific weather patterns that spawn cedar groves and monster trout, drought can take root like an unwelcome weed. 

Yet, Montanans are a hardy, adaptable lot and have successfully lived with drought for over 150 years. Indigenous communities, too, have practiced ecosystem management and drought adaptation for millennia prior. Today, many tribal communities across the state continue to model impressive climate and drought adaptation planning, programs, and projects that incorporate science, culture and historical practices, and traditional knowledge.

Just as drought impacts differ across Montana’s ecosystems and communities, so do drought adaptation strategies. The right strategy for one community may not be right for another. Community resources and capacity, local leadership, cultural considerations, primary water uses, and many other variables determine which adaptation strategies can best address diverse local needs.

Just take a look