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Climate: Western states eye continued drought

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Reservoir storage is well below average across the West.

Reservoir storage near record low in some states

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Without a surplus moisture this winter, drought conditions are likely to linger, and potentially even worsen, across parts of the West in 2013, according to the Western Governors’ Association, which last week released its new Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook.

Publication of the latest edition of the outlook came shortly after Dec. 12-13 National Drought Forum in Washington, D.C. The overall outlook is for drought to persist across most of the northern Great Basin south to New Mexico and Arizona and east into the high plains.

“Drought impacts next year could be far more severe, especially given that the reservoir storage in many basins has been depleted,” said Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who spoke at the event.

The cold season is typically the driest part of the year in most mid‐continental  locations, so even with average seasonal precipitation, there will likely be little relief from the drought, according to the National Drought Monitor. The exceptions are Montana and California, where some relief is expected, based on early season precipitation.

New Mexico has been hardest hit, with reservoir  storage at just 18 percent of capacity, but storage is below average in all western state except Montana and Washington.

  • The national drought conference identified some of the mitigation strategies for addressing the ongoing drought, including:
  • Regular, real‐time coordination and information sharing on the status, impacts, and prospects for drought throughout 2013
  • Identification of priority basins or projects that are severely affected by drought, in order to focus mitigatioon strategies for 2013
  • Coordination with USDA on federal disaster declarations and drought relief programs
    Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge critical reservoirs and enhance storage capacity in the West.
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