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Deep drought persists in New Mexico

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The low-flowing Pecos River in southeast New Mexico near Lake Arthur on Dec. 10 shows exceptional drought. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The Land of Enchantment could really use a white Christmas.

All of New Mexico is experiencing some level of drought, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The last time the state was entirely in drought in mid-December was in 2012.

About 53% of the state is in “exceptional drought” status, the most severe level of drought.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an emergency drought declaration earlier this month in response to the extremely dry conditions. The declaration notes that drought increases the risk of other natural disasters like wildfires and post-fire flooding.

The executive order directs the state Drought Task Force to recommend groups that should receive emergency funding.

“This drought is of such magnitude as to be beyond local control and to require additional resources,” the order reads.

The task force includes the state engineer and representatives from the State Forestry Division, Interstate Stream Commission and National Weather Service.

Water agencies statewide are reminding residents to conserve water during the drought.

Many municipalities, farmers and ranchers have switched to pumping groundwater as rivers and streams slow to a trickle.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority stopped pumping water from the Rio Grande in July.

But metro residents and businesses have used 1.4 billion more gallons so far in 2020 than the same period in 2019.

Carlos Bustos, water conservation program manager, said that months of little rainfall, record heat and a boost in residential water use because of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the spike.

The water authority is developing a new guide to help residents increase irrigation efficiency and save water.

“So if you’re watering with a hose or sprinkler system or drip, we’re going to teach you how long to water,” Bustos said.

The exceptional drought encompasses all of southeast New Mexico.

In late November, the Interstate Stream Commission began pumping water from state wells into the Pecos River to increase supplies for the Carlsbad Irrigation District.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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