Drought is Part of Arizona’s Reality
By AMWUA Staff
Prolonged drought has become our way of life in Arizona. After all, we live in a desert, and drought is a regular part of the long-term weather cycle in our arid climate. So it is not a surprise that the current drought declaration that has spanned over 20 years will once again be extended.
To determine our drought status, the Governor’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group, which includes experts on water, weather, climate, forests, and wildlife, collectively offer insight into recent weather events and analysis of the near-term weather future may hold. The group meets twice a year to analyze Arizona’s climate conditions and decide whether to recommend to the Governor that the ongoing drought declaration be continued or not, a collective decision they have made since 2006. Last month during their meeting, there was a unanimous decision to inform the Governor that Arizona’s long-running drought declaration should continue.
In addition to hearing reports from that group’s membership, they also take into consideration what effect precipitation levels have had on both the short-term and long-term drought statuses. With some winter storms, there were short-term improvements, and they were beneficial to our reservoirs. Still, there remains too much uncertainty, with the expectation for a warmer than average summer, and an outlook for a drier than typical winter.
In short, we will need more consecutive above-average winters before Arizona can say it is out of drought. One wet winter is not enough to rehydrate the soil and vegetation, which have been receiving less than average precipitation for over 20 years. And snow is most beneficial because it functions as a natural water reservoir. It stores water on top of the mountains in the winter when there is less demand for it, and then gradually creates runoff during spring and early summer, when water demand is higher. Even though snow is far more helpful than rain, here in the desert, any amount of precipitation is welcome, and every drop benefits our water sources.
As we head into a drier future, drought will continue to be the norm, and that is not unexpected. While agencies from across our State continue to monitor the status of water supplies, weather, climate, and forests, the cities will continue to prepare for drought as they always do. AMWUA members have planned, developed, and managed their communities and their water supplies with drought in mind, ensuring adequate water to meet the needs of their residents and businesses through the past two decades and as the drought continues. Securing multiple sources of water and finding ways to stretch those supplies, including storing water underground has prevented a shortage during our drought. Efficient water use has been a part of long-term water management in the Valley and has made us built for drought.
To help us all better understand our drought conditions and history, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has created the Drought Dashboard, an interactive tool for anyone interested in further investigating details on our drought status. This visual tool makes drought information accessible for all so we can each get a better understand of drought in different areas of our State.
For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more information, visit www.amwua.org.
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