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N.M.’s drought worst in U.S.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — We’re No. 1. This is not a good thing.

New Mexico on Thursday passed Nebraska to stand alone in first place in the U.S. drought derby, with 82 percent of New Mexico in “extreme” drought or worse, according to the weekly federal Drought Monitor.

No part of the state has been left untouched. On the state’s eastern plains, dryland wheat farmers and cattle ranchers have been particularly hard hit. Farmers on the lower Pecos River are warring over scarce water supplies. Elephant Butte Reservoir on the Rio Grande, for the first time in its 98-year history, did not have enough water to release any water in the month of April to southern New Mexico farmers.

The past 36 months have been the fourth driest in New Mexico history, and conditions have reached “exceptional” levels in the Rio Grande Valley, according to Eric Luebehusen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the author of this week’s Drought Monitor.

In Albuquerque, 0.83 of an inch of precipitation has fallen since Oct. 1, the third driest such period in a century of record keeping and less than a quarter of average for the period.

The forecast offers little hope for change anytime soon. Dry conditions are likely to persist in New Mexico at least through the end of July, according to a seasonal forecast also released Thursday.