Pecan and chili growers along the Lower Rio Grande can tap groundwater during droughts, but the aquifer water is salty and harmful to the soil over the long term.

On the Rio Grande—historically the wellspring for more than five million people in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico—coping with scarcity has become a reality, and water management and use in the region may be a leading example of how to adapt to drier times

The current drought in the Southwest is not drier or longer-lasting than historic episodes documented in tree rings, but the current dry conditions stand out from the historical record by being hotter, according to Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona.