Severe drought persists around Arizona

PHOENIX - Arizona's drought conditions wear on.

Nearly 38 percent of the state is experiencing severe or extreme drought.

Much of Maricopa County falls in the severe drought category, but the West Valley is even worse. They are categorized as extreme due to lack of rainfall over the last year.

We are now in neutral El Nino/La Nina conditions which leads to a lot of uncertainty in the long-term precipitation forecast since there is no real trend to look at. Typically, with El Nino winters we get above normal rainfall and with La Nina winters we get below normal rainfall. But, neutral winters have historically been all across the board, from well above normal to well below normal. 

So far this season, rain and snow totals have been below normal. Phoenix's official rainfall total at Sky Harbor has only been 0.93" since October 1, 2012. That is 1.7" below normal.

In order to have any chance at recharging our reservoir and soil moisture levels, we will need several winter storms to move through with lots of moisture before our dry spring hits. 

Right now, it's looking like the odds are stacked in favor of that not happening, and instead seeing more below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures into spring.

That's not good news for our reservoir levels which have dropped significantly in the last two years. In early 2011, Arizona's total reservoir system was at 86% capacity.  It is now down to 49%.  That's a 37% drop.

Here's a look at our reservoir levels now for the Salt River and Verde River systems:

Roosevelt - 41% (down 49% from 2011)

Horse Mesa - 92% (down 1% from 2011)

Mormon Flat - 96% (down 2% from 2011)

Steward Mountain - 95% (even with 2011)

Horseshoe - 0% (down 10% from 2011)

Bartlett - 59% (down 21% from 2011)



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