Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rains helped, but NM still in drought

Two to 4 inches of rain last weekend across parts of New Mexico’s eastern plains was a relief, but was far short of what will be needed to reverse New Mexico’s drought. “It’s changed everyone’s attitude here in this part of the country,” Franklin McCasland, manager of the Arch Hurley Irrigation District, said of a weekend storm that soaked parched farm fields around Tucumcari. The gentle rain added 2 feet of water to Conchas Lake, but the irrigation district’s management is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward whether there is enough water to increase irrigation allotments to farmers who have gone without water completely in six of the past 12 years. While the eastern plains have been hardest hit by the drought, and received the most rain last weekend, a similar story repeated around much of New Mexico. Above-average May rain will likely break a five-month-long dry streak for most of the state, but years of drought mean water deficits are deeper than can be erased by a single wet month. “Long-term drought is still with us, and probably will be for a while,” Chuck Jones of the National Weather Service said during Wednesday’s meeting of the state-federal Drought Monitoring Working Group. The amount of rain it would take to end drought conditions varies widely. Statewide, New Mexico has received 32 inches of rain over the past three years, 10 inches below average. According to the National Climatic Data Center, western New Mexico would need 3 to 6 inches of rain over the next three months to end drought conditions, while the drier east would need 6 to 9 inches. Forecasters say a growing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, a warm water pattern that tips the odds to wetter weather, could help...more

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