#Drought news: The North American Monsoon won’t save Water Year 2018

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

The arrival of the Southwest’s summer monsoons is good news—good news everyone has been waiting for, especially since a dry, warm winter hit the state hard this year.

But drought conditions still persist in New Mexico, and despite temporary bumps in flows, the state’s rivers are still experiencing lower-than-normal flows. At the Otowi Gage on the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico—a critical point for determining how much water New Mexico must send to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact—flows dipped over the weekend to just above 700 cubic feet per second. (One cubic foot per second is equal to about 448 gallons flowing past in a minute or 7 gallons per second.) In Albuquerque, Thursday’s rainstorm pushed the river up to about normal flows. But by Saturday, the Rio Grande through the city dropped back down to about 350 cfs, about half what its flows have historically been in early July.

And it’s not just the Rio Grande.

On Saturday, the Animas River in Farmington was running at about 20 cfs—compared with flows that should be about 1,000 cfs this time of year. The San Juan River in Farmington saw an uptick earlier in the week, but by Saturday it had dropped down to 1,000 cfs, when it should be closer to 1,800 cfs. The Pecos River above Santa Rosa Dam is running at about seven cfs, less than a quarter of the historic norm. And in southwestern New Mexico, the Gila River near the town of Cliff—near where the state plans to build a diversion on the river—is jumping between 15 and 30 cfs. Downstream, near Red Rock, the Gila’s been running at a consistent three cfs. And while it was exciting to see the Santa Fe River roaring after Thursday’s storm, by the next day, the river was down to about six cfs.

To see stream flow measurements statewide, visit the USGS website here

As of late last week, the state’s largest river, the Rio Grande, was dry for about 22 miles in the San Acacia reach south of Socorro and for about four miles in the Isleta reach above Peralta…

Meteorologists with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center anticipate that drought will remain in the state, but that conditions will improve between now and September, thanks to monsoon rains. Even that won’t return things to normal. According to the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, the southwestern United States has such a precipitation deficit right now that even a historically-good monsoon won’t help the region recover enough to reach 100 percent of its normal water year precipitation.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

The state’s low snowpack and lack of significant spring rains have caused several water suppliers statewide to put in place some mandatory restrictions, some of which go as far as to ban all outdoor landscape watering.

While that hasn’t happened in the Grand Valley, water suppliers have placed the area on voluntary restrictions, meaning they are asking, but not requiring, area residents to be more judicious in how they use water.

“(The year) 2018 has quickly become even more significant than the 2002 drought,” said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for the Ute Water Conservancy District. “The domestic water providers along with the irrigation water providers moved Mesa County into a voluntary water restriction the earliest we’ve ever moved in, in early May of this year.”


Burtard said the four main water suppliers in the valley — Ute Water, Clifton Water District, the city of Grand Junction and the town of Palisade — have created a Grand Valley Regional Water Conservation Plan.

Part of that plan includes the Drought Response Information Project, a collaborative effort created by the four water suppliers after the 2002-03 drought to help instruct Grand Valley residents about water conservation.

While that plan asks water users to voluntarily place themselves on restrictions — or at least be a little smarter about how they use water — it also comes with an agreement that if one of the water suppliers decides to make those restrictions mandatory, they all will.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Maddy Hayden):

A map released Thursday by the [New Mexico’s] Drought Monitoring Workgroup indicated that 87 percent of the state remains in severe or worse drought.

That’s down from 89 percent last month, but conditions are still looking extremely dry in this part of the world.

At the end of June 2017, that percentage was 0.

Now, 18 percent of New Mexico – stretching from the Four Corners across much of the northern part of the state – is in exceptional drought…

Only a small strip of land along the state’s southern border from Las Cruces eastward, making up around 1.3 percent of the state, is currently drought-free.

Rivers around the state, including the Rio Grande, are dry or hardly flowing at some points.

John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, said the Rio Grande near Embudo north of Española was the lowest in history for Thursday’s date in more than 120 years of record keeping.

A 22-mile stretch of the river in Socorro County is dry.

There, the carcasses of fish litter the white sand of what should be a wet ribbon winding through the desert.

Fleck said the the Rio Grande is still wet in Albuquerque only because of releases from the Heron, El Vado and Abiquiú reservoirs.

“It’s not clear how much longer those supplies of stored water will last,” Fleck said.

Depending on monsoon rains, Fleck said, the river could go dry in Albuquerque in August, which would be the first time that has happened since 1977.

The Pecos River, too, is essentially dry above the Santa Rosa Reservoir.

The winter’s abysmal snowpack has taken a toll on the state’s reservoirs.

Conchas Lake was down more than 15,500 acre-feet, and Abiquiu Reservoir was down 13,000 acre-feet since the beginning of the month…

In Albuquerque, water use has been kept under control, said Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

Water Utility Authority customers have used around 160 million more gallons than they had at this time last year.

“That sounds like a lot, but that’s equal to about three-fourths of a gallon more a day,” Yuhas said.

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor released drought details that show worsening conditions in Utah as areas already experiencing extreme or exceptional drought are continuing to grow.

Those extremely dry conditions make the state ripe for more wildfires, the governor said, and it will likely get worse with the fireworks season looming…

“The most severe places for drought are centered in the southeastern corner, but it is starting to spread northward,” said Shane Green, rangeland management specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

West Drought Monitor July 3, 2018.

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