#Drought expands over the southwest and southern plains #ColoradoRiver #COriver #snowpack

US Drought Monitor March 27. 2018.

From The Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan) via The Arizona Daily Sun:

A federal drought map released Thursday shows dry conditions intensifying across northern New Mexico and into southwestern Arizona. Every square mile of Nevada and Utah also are affected by at least some level of dryness.

On the southern high plains, Oklahoma is ground zero for the worst drought conditions in the United States.

The exceptional drought in the Panhandle — an area dominated by agriculture — has more than doubled in size. Many farmers rely on precipitation to help water their crops as pumping groundwater is the only other option…

Crop conditions around the region are declining as extreme drought spans from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. In New Mexico, about three-quarters of the winter wheat crop is in poor to very poor condition as meaningful moisture has been scarce since last fall.

Along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico, the irrigation allotment will be less than half of what farmers received last year. Water orders will begin next week and officials with the local Irrigation district are encouraging growers to use their surface water as soon as crops demand it…

In Arizona, there’s concern for ranchers as the poor range conditions have left stock tanks dry. On the Navajo Nation, a drought emergency was declared earlier this month and residents have started hauling water for their sheep and other livestock…

But officials aren’t expecting any cuts to the water delivery systems that serve much of Arizona’s population.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Ollie Reed Jr.):

The best snowpack in the state, in the Rio Chama Basin, is at 45 percent of normal. The Jemez and Pecos river basins are at 16 and 3 percent of normal, respectively, and the Gila and Rio Hondo basins are at zero.

Royce Fontenot, senior hydrologist in the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service, said the snowfall season has peaked out.

“We are done there,” Fontenot said during a New Mexico Drought Monitor Working Group session this week. “What we have on the mountains is what you are going to get. What you see is what you get for (spring) runoff.”

[…]

The Drought Monitor Work Group, made up of members of the National Weather Service and state and federal agencies, determines the extent and severity of drought in the state. An updated drought map released Thursday shows that nearly 99 percent of New Mexico is in some stage of drought and more than 34 percent, the northern third of the state, is in extreme drought.

During the Working Group conference, Marshal Wilson of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture said there are reports that farmers in the northeast are planting less corn this year due to dry conditions and that livestock producers are downsizing their herds.

“We have started to see things getting pretty tough,” Wilson said. “The winter wheat crop was bad because we had no snow. We need moisture, and when we get it, high winds dry it out pretty quick.”

Wilson said ranchers are hauling water to herds and confronting a hay shortage that will make supplemental feeding of cattle a challenge.

Anthony Chavez, stage agricultural program specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency, said 15 northern counties now qualify for the federal Livestock Forage Program, which makes funds available to help ranchers buy feed for their cattle once a county has been in severe drought for eight consecutive weeks…

If there are silver linings, they are in the possibility of a better-than-normal summer monsoon season and the fact there is more water stored in most state reservoirs now than there was at this time last year.

Graphic credit: NOAA

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