July 21, 2023

Drought conditions returning to New Mexico

After a wet start of the year, drought conditions are returning to New Mexico.

A seasonal outlook from the National Integrated Drought Information System indicates that the drought conditions will likely develop over most of the state and the drought conditions that currently exist in portions of the state will persist over the next three months. NIDIS released the seasonal outlook on Thursday.

As of Thursday, about 37 percent of the state is not experiencing any drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and 18 percent of the state is experiencing drought conditions. 

Returning drought conditions come amid what could be a late monsoon season and above normal July temperatures.

State Engineer Mike Hamman told the Interstate Stream Commission that the heat wave and late monsoon could move New Mexico “more in the direction of severe drought conditions.”

However, he said, the substantial snowpack over the winter has helped the rivers.

“The rivers are holding up pretty well,” Hamman said. “The main stems of the Rio Grande are still flowing above the normal demands of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.”

At the same time, Hamman cautioned that the Rio Grande’s flows are declining and portions will likely go dry. He said the river has become intermittent in the Bosque del Apache area along the Rio Grande and officials are preparing for the San Acacia Reach to go dry. 

A stream gauge at the Rio Grande Floodway at San Acacia shows the river was flowing at approximately 64 cubic feet per second on Thursday, a decrease from 195 cubic feet per second on July 13 and from 2,640 cubic feet per second at the start of the month.

In other parts of the state, Hamman said the San Juan River is “holding up well, driven by the Animas runoff” and the Pecos has decent reservoir storage. He said the Canadian River Basin also has “good to above average” reservoir storage.