. . .Not to worry Arizona according to Director of Az Dept Water Resources we’re SAFE … use all the water you want – at least in Phoenix – the rest of Arizona may well have to conserve water … but not in the Valley of the Sun…
Outlook for 2014: Severity may lessen, but drought will persist
Arizona isn’t likely to see any respite next year from the drought that has gripped the state for almost 15 years, though summer monsoon storms and a freakish November drenching set the region up nicely to store a healthy water supply, federal forecasters said Friday.
Meteorologists, who typically look to the oceans when predicting long-term weather patterns, say the water currents in the Pacific Ocean indicate good odds that this winter will be slightly drier than the norm.
With neither a wet El Niño nor a dry La Niña phase developing, National Weather Service drought specialist Mark O’Malley said to expect more of a “Nada” — a winter of neutral influences from midocean temperatures.
Another ocean factor, though, appears to point to a slightly warmer and dry winter for the Southwest, which has been in some stage of drought in all but a few years since 1999.
Cool surface temperatures along the North American and Asian coasts indicate that a long-term ocean climate shift known as Pacific Decadal Oscillation isn’t about to occur, leaving in place the kind of conditions that brought on the current drought.
“There’s probably a better-than-average chance that (weather) will be drier than normal across the Southwest,” the Phoenix-based forecaster said.
But nothing in the models suggests anything worse than what the region has experienced in recent years, and so-called “neutral” ocean years can be unpredictable.
“It only takes one or two storms to really make a winter for us,” O’Malley said. “We found that out in November.”
Last month, most of the state got its usual monthly rain total in just one steady, four-day rain. It produced the second-wettest November day ever in Phoenix.
Much of Maricopa County got more than 2 inches.
Some parts of the state got a quarter of their annual rainfall.
“It’s really beneficial that we got this much rainfall at this time of year,” O’Malley said.
The reason is that, although the pre-Thanksgiving storm didn’t appreciably raise depleted reservoirs, it did saturate the soil so that new moisture will start running off toward reservoirs instead of soaking in.
The trick now is getting that new moisture, largely in the form of high-country snow.
Lake Powell is currently just 45 percent full — low enough that its federal managers for the first time will perform slow releases of its Colorado River water to Lake Mead in the coming year, lowering the levels of that key Arizona water supplier.
But early-season snowfall is looking up in all the critical parts of the basin from Wyoming and Colorado to Arizona, said Kevin Werner, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration river forecaster.
The upper-basin mountains have already stacked up enough snow to produce 28 percent of their median winter moisture levels, he said, and Arizona’s Salt River headwaters are similarly on track for a decent runoff.
“We’re off to a really great start,” he said.
Lake Powell will start to rebound if only because of the lower dam releases, Werner said.
A nearly normal winter of the kind the Weather Service predicts would mean the reservoir managers could start sending more water downstream for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico by 2015.
Under the current weather outlook and dam-release plans, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects Lake Powell to rise back over the 50 percent mark by next June and hover around that point at least through 2015.
Salt River Project’s Roosevelt Lake, east of Phoenix, is currently at 55 percent of capacity. Last year at this time, it was at 49 percent.
A nearly normal or slightly-dry winter likely would push the system’s major reservoir closer to 80 percent, SRP hydrologist Tim Skarupa said, putting metro Phoenix in good shape for next year because of what’s already behind the dam.
“Drought is one thing,” he said. “Water supply is another.”
Still, the hydrologist warned, when ocean conditions are “neutral, we’ve had some of our driest years and some of our wettest