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Runoff forecast for spring: not good

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The National Resource Conservation Service has published its snowmelt runoff forecast for spring 2014 and — no surprise, considering recent drought conditions — it says runoff should be “less than average to significantly less than average” from mountains in New Mexico.

Unlike many New Mexicans weary of dry conditions, the forecast assumes average rain and snow will occur over the next few months. The runoff forecast ranges from a high of about 70 percent of average near the border with Colorado to around 30 percent on the Rio Grande entering Elephant Butte Reservoir, the Jemez River, and Mimbres River.

Greater than average precipitation will be needed the next few months in order to have average runoff this spring, despite recent snow in New Mexico providing some small benefit, the forecast says. In Northwest New Mexico, the San Juan River has received recent snow that may improve inflow to the San Juan Chama Project during the spring.

“Drought is persisting in New Mexico. Unfortunately, less than average snowmelt means there will be less water in our rivers,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López in a news release. “Less water in our rivers adds pressure to our environment, our irrigators and our statewide economy. Water conservation is one of our best tools to build drought resiliency.”

“New Mexicans may face another dry summer,” said State Engineer Scott Verhines. “It’s important that we have water administration agreements in place to mitigate conflict. For example, the shortage sharing agreement reached last summer on the Rio Chama avoided a priority call and provided for an irrigation season. We are working to implement Active Water Resource Management in critical basins as a longer-term solution to variable water supplies.”

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