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Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The current heat wave and lack of rain has worsened drought conditions across most of Wyoming, state Climatologist Jan Curtis said.

Drought conditions have not changed for a third of the state, but for the other two-thirds, it has become worse.

Curtis said the eastern half of the state has fallen deeper into drought, dropping one level from moderate to exceptionally dry conditions. In addition, the Drought Management Task Force has recommended upgrading drought conditions from abnormally dry to moderate drought for Laramie and Albany counties in southeastern Wyoming.

The western half of the state, including Sweetwater and Carbon counties, is considered to be in severe or extreme drought. Unita and Lincoln counties have reached the category of exceptional drought, the most extreme level of drought.

Although June rains brought temporary relief from the drought in some areas, July's heat has quickly absorbed the moisture.

"We did have a cool, wet spring, but it takes more than one season to recover from a drought of this magnitude," Curtis said.

There may be temporary relief in August when monsoon weather sweeps through the Gulf of California and the Rockies, giving a second period of wet summer weather, Curtis said.

But nothing is certain.

"I'm not expecting a drought-buster by any stretch of the imagination," Curtis said. "It's just going to be a temporary relief in all likelihood, but there is a little light at the end of the tunnel."

He added that August precipitation also wouldn't do much to affect the drought situation overall.

"It's not unusual for a drought to let up for a few months. But it will take multiple seasons — years of precipitation — to make up for that water loss," he said.

The summer months also mean a great deal more evaporation, drying out soils.

This puts the agriculture community under more pressure to use well water and irrigation.

Curtis also said July is normally the hottest and driest month for Wyoming.

While studies are still being conducted to determine the exact cause of a drought, he said there is evidence they do occur in cycles.

If that is the case, the state should face a water surplus in 2007 or 2008.

"We're heading into a decade-long drought," Curtis said. "We're already a third to half of the way through it."

He added that with a little common sense, Wyoming residents would be able to use the state's water resources in good times and bad.

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