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Is Nevada the driest state in the US?

By Austin Tannenbaum on 03/31/2023


Nevada is the driest state in the nation, and the only state to average less than 10 inches of rain per year. The national average is about 30 inches.

Accounting for this low precipitation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that Nevada is located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, which blocks much of the moisture from the Pacific Ocean from reaching the state.

Because of this natural scarcity of rainfall, along with overuse of reservoirs and hotter, dryer conditions brought on by climate change, Nevada has experienced drought in the majority of years since 2000, when the U.S. Drought Monitor began collecting data.

Winter storms have eased drought conditions over the past few months, but large reservoirs such as Lake Mead remain low and will require several good years to approach normal, according to Nevada’s State Climatologist Steph McAfee.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.

Sources US Average Precipitation State Rank

Current Results Driest States in the US

National Centers for Environmental Information Temperature and Precipitation Analysis

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration State Climate Summaries 2022

University of Nevada, Reno Climate Change Impacts in Nevada

National Integrated Drought Information System Drought in Nevada from 2000-Present

University of Nevada, Reno Nevada Drought Update for March 2023

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