Storage levels for the week of Feb. 5 at Santa Fe’s two municipal reservoirs in the mountains east of the city have declined over the last four years.
Water levels for the week have dropped from 51 percent in 2010 to about 38 percent in both 2012 and 2013. While the reservoirs show some recovery each April as snow melts off, even those recoveries have decreased each year.
Santa Fe’s reservoir levels are a symbol of what is happening around the state — the winter snowpack in mountains and the summer rains are too little to make up for increasing annual water deficits. While the city now has water from the Rio Grande to supplement its supplies from the reservoirs and wells, all are threatened by the ongoing drought.
The forecast for snowpack and spring water supplies released Wednesday by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service doesn’t paint a rosy picture for the rest of the year.
There’s a 50-50 chance the flows in the Rio Grande at Otowi Bridge north of Santa Fe from March to July will be just over half the normal amount of water passing the gauge at that point, according to the forecast. The total would be 340,000 acre-feet of water. Even the most optimistic prediction in the report puts the flow past the Otowi gauge at 615,000 acre-feet of water for the period. The 30-year average is 720,000 acre-feet past the gauge from spring to early summer.
A January snowstorm helped snowpack in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but it will take a lot more to help reservoirs in the mountain range recover.
The same is true of reservoirs around the state, which are a key to providing water to farmers and towns through the summer. In January, the total levels of New Mexico’s 15 reservoirs stood at 29 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service water-supply forecast. Total reservoir storage now is down to 585,00 acre-feet, from 896,700 acre-feet at this time last year. The average over the last three decades is more than 2 million acre-feet.
Reservoirs around the West are reporting similar declines.
At the moment, the situation in New Mexico isn’t going to improve. According to the latest Drought Monitor map issued Tuesday, more than 90 percent of the state is in severe to extreme drought conditions, compared to 75 percent three months ago. The map is produced by federal agencies from data showing soil moisture, climate conditions and stream-flow forecasts.
Looking ahead at precipitation through the weekend, the National Weather Service in Albuquerque is predicting a 20 percent to 40 percent chance of snow showers around Santa Fe on Saturday. The possibilities for snow decrease through next week.
Contact Staci Matlock at 505-986-3055 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.