Drought Affects Acequias

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New Mexico remains drought-plagued after a very dry 2010-2011 winter that was influenced heavily by a moderate to strong La Niña event. The monsoon that followed was spottier than normal, alleviating drought in only a few regions, and widespread precipitation deficits remain entrenched. Since October 1st, rain and snow generally have been below average. According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, published on November 29th, 63 percent of New Mexico was classified with extreme or exceptional drought.


Conditions over the next several months will determine whether drought will expand and intensify or improve, particularly because sustained dry conditions make it progressively harder to reduce drought. Forecasts, however, paint a grim picture, as a weak La Niña has returned. La Niña conditions often steer storm tracks north of the Southwest, leaving the region dry. Although the La Niña threatens to drive precipitation deficits farther into the red, there is a silver lining. Winter precipitation likely will not be as scant as last winter if historical statistics bear out and La Niña remains weak. Current La Niña forecasts call for more than a 60 percent chance that La Niña will continue through the February-March period, with the expectation that the event will remain either weak or moderate. A relatively wet December is not uncommon during a La Niña. In New Mexico, December and March often have less precipitation deficits than January and February.

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