Drought persists despite a rainy May

May rains have come through New Mexico, making the landscape a little more green than New Mexicans are used to. May of 2015 is one of the top-ten wettest months in Albuquerque history when it comes to precipitation. Thanks in large part to this, the May drought outlook looks better than it has in years. […]

Drought persists despite a rainy May

May rains have come through New Mexico, making the landscape a little more green than New Mexicans are used to.

Drought Monitor 05192015

May of 2015 is one of the top-ten wettest months in Albuquerque history when it comes to precipitation.

Thanks in large part to this, the May drought outlook looks better than it has in years. The May 19 update to the Drought Monitor from The National Drought Mitigation Center found that less than half of the state was in a drought. This was the first time since 2011 that this could be said.

All of this is good news. A year ago, 87.5 percent of the state was in a severe drought and 97.6 percent was in at least a moderate drought.

This means things are better in New Mexico than they have been for years. But it doesn’t mean that all of the state’s problems with drought have disappeared.

Not out of the woods

Phil King, a civil engineering professor at New Mexico State University and water advisor to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, said it’s too early to start celebrating.

“I’m widely known as Dr. Doom and this is reinforcing my reputation because I think people are getting very much in front of themselves,” King told New Mexico Political Report.

He said the drought monitor is more like a “snapshot” of what is happening now.

“Drought is not an instantaneous thing,” he said. “It integrates over time.”

He said a good, if imperfect, indicator is looking at Elephant Butte and how close to capacity it is. Right now, the state’s largest reservoir is at 20 percent capacity.

A look at reservoir volumes from the Climate Assessment for the Southwest, as of the end of April 2015.
A look at reservoir volumes from the Climate Assessment for the Southwest, as of the end of April 2015.
“We’re 20 percent storage,” he said. “I’ll start getting less doom in my talks when we’re up over 50 percent or 75 percent storage.”

The last time Elephant Butte hit capacity was at this level, King said, was nearly two decades ago in the late 1990s.

The major way that Elephant Butte, and other reservoirs throughout the state, fill up is from snow melting in the Spring. For the past few years, New Mexico’s snowpack has been below average, leading to reservoirs like Elephant

From High Country News:

The rains won’t save us from all of our drought-related ills, however. That still takes snow, and this winter was not generous with it throughout much of the West. Snowpack usually peaks in the region around April 1, but this year at that time, thanks to a balmy March and an unremarkable dusting, it was rapidly melting out.

Better than the worst doesn’t mean good

One reason why people are celebrating the latest drought numbers is that they are better than recent years. Of course, recent years were the worst on record when it came to drought in New Mexico.

On his blog, former Albuquerque Journal science reporter and current Writer in Residence in the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico John Fleck, who has extensive experience in reporting on water and drought in New Mexico, put it into perspective.

“Flow on the Rio Grande may be up to levels we haven’t seen in five years, but that’s as much of a measure of how lousy it’s been over the last five years, as it is a measure of how good things are this year,” Fleck wrote.

King echoed that sentiment.

“If you get too optimistic about the way things are looking right now, it’s a really good sign that your standards have really, really dropped,” King said.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List, a nonprofit that supports women candidates and reproductive rights, endorsed seven incumbents facing general election opponents in New Mexico legislative elections. All…
Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

A New Mexico-based LGBTQ rights organization endorsed 15 candidates for state House and Senate seats for the 2024 elections.  Marshall Martinez, executive director of…
Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed two bills the legislature passed this legislative session: one changing the Cybersecurity Act and the other concerning law…
Economic Development Department announces Energy Transition Act funding awards

Economic Development Department announces Energy Transition Act funding awards

Funding to assist with economic development following the closure of the San Juan Generating Station will be distributed to four projects in San Juan,…
BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a new rule Friday governing onshore oil and gas production that advocacy groups say will help protect…
Court hears arguments in oil and gas pollution case

Court hears arguments in oil and gas pollution case

A district court judge heard arguments Friday about whether to dismiss a lawsuit that could have major implications for the oil and gas industry…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

U.S. Rep. Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez, a Democrat who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, cosponsored a resolution on Monday calling…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Good morning fellow political junkies! Early and absentee voting for the June 4 New Mexico primary begins in about a month. The nonprofit election…

Can the Albuquerque Police Department ever be reformed?

by Joshua Bowling, Searchlight New Mexico In the past decade, reforming the Albuquerque Police Department has cost nearly $40 million and generated 5,600 pages…
Politics Newsletter: Uncommitted primary voting

Politics Newsletter: Uncommitted primary voting

Hello fellow political junkies! Early and absentee voting in the New Mexico Primary begin on May 7. With many voters readying their choice for…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report