Drought affecting 99 percent of New Mexico - Albuquerque Journal

Drought affecting 99 percent of New Mexico

What you see is what you get when it comes to New Mexico’s mountain snowpacks, and there’s not much to see. In some cases, there’s nothing to see.

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.”

He said that even the snow that fell in some of the high northern mountain ranges earlier this week was not enough to help the state hydrologically.

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.

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 on 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.

“We have had deteriorating conditions to the north over the last several months,” Fontenot said. “We have extreme dryness in the northeast part of the state.”

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 dry conditions persist, he said, ranchers in most of New Mexico may qualify for the program by the end of April.

Sandbars fill the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque last month. Officials say this year’s precipitation has been sparse and snow pack nearly non existent. AP FILE PHOTO

Chavez said ranchers in counties that are in extreme drought also qualify for the federal Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which reimburses livestock growers for money spent to haul water to their animals.

“There are people inquiring about these programs and just starting to do sign-ups,” he said.

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.

“We know we are going into a real dry spring,” said David Gensler, water operations manager for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which provides irrigation water for 70,000 acres of cropland in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

“But we’ve got water in storage, and we have been preparing our people,” Gensler said. “I think we will get through (the irrigation season) OK, but there won’t be any room for waste. We are going to be real attentive to make sure no one is taking water out of turn and that everyone is using water efficiently.”

Gensler knows the real challenge may be next year if much of the stored water is used this season and is not replaced by precipitation.

“I am worried about next year,” he said. “But our focus right now has to be on this season. We may shift our thinking into saving water for next year if we get a good monsoon season. If we have any opportunity to keep water upstream, we will. We aren’t going to let anything get by that we don’t have to.”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Drought affecting 99 percent of New Mexico

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
Ready for Rihanna? A look at five songs that ...
ABQnews Seeker
Journal Staff WriterI am not sure ... Journal Staff WriterI am not sure if you have heard, but there is a football game this ...
2
Walmart near Highland High School to close next month
ABQnews Seeker
The roughly 287 employees who work ... The roughly 287 employees who work at the store are eligible for transfers to nearby Walmart locations, the company said.
3
House committee endorses automatic voter registration in New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
In-person transactions at MVD offices would ... In-person transactions at MVD offices would register new voters, and Election Day would be a school holiday
4
Alford, Nevada break Lobo hearts yet again
ABQnews Seeker
Kenan Blackshear's final-second shot pushed Nevada ... Kenan Blackshear's final-second shot pushed Nevada past the UNM Lobos and continued Steve Alford's dominance over his former team.
5
Police investigating death in International District apartment complex
ABQnews Seeker
Homicide detectives have been called out ... Homicide detectives have been called out to the scene.
6
Not a winter wonderland, but it’s something: ABQ to ...
ABQnews Seeker
The snow accumulations weren’t above an ... The snow accumulations weren’t above an inch at the Albuquerque International Sunport.
7
From piñon to petrichor: 4 aromas that define Albuquerque ...
ABQnews Seeker
A group of Las Cruces fifth ... A group of Las Cruces fifth graders recently pitched a bill that would name the scent of roasting green chile the official state smell. ...
8
Scoring King: James passes Abdul-Jabbar for NBA points mark
ABQnews Seeker
LeBron James got the first official ... LeBron James got the first official statistic of his NBA career on a rebound. His next entry on the stat sheet was an assist. ...
9
Emptying the Notebook: Lobos losing 3-point battle every night ...
ABQnews Seeker
Some extra notes, quotes and analysis ... Some extra notes, quotes and analysis from Tuesday night's UNM Lobos loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Pit.