The Endless Drought

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George Steinmetz for TIME

I have a piece in the dead-tree TIME this week on the months-long drought in the South—subscribers of the print and digital versions of TIME can access it here. (And the rest of you can go buy a magazine—or at least an iPad app.) The photos that went along with the piece—by the photographer George Steinmetz—are brilliant, especially considering the fact that drought is perhaps the toughest natural disaster to actually show visually. For more of Steinmetz’s photos, check out this Lightbox photo essay of his work in New Mexico, Texas and Georgia shows.

Drought may not produce the dramatic images of a hurricane or an earthquake, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a toll. In Texas, where nearly 100% of the state is currently in some form of drought, economists believe the long stretch of dry weather could cost more than $8 billion. And the real worry is that between population growth and the potential drying impact of climate change, drought could become the norm in much of the American Southwest. We’ll have to adapt—because there’s no other choice.