Arizona Drought

Arizona is currently in our 21st year of a long-term drought.  Drought in the West is a long-term concept where a single dry year does not constitute a drought.  Since Arizona has an arid and semi-arid climate, extreme variability in precipitation is normal, and drought is characterized by a string of drier than normal years, often interrupted by a few wetter than normal years.  Currently most watersheds in the state have experienced only 7 or 8 normal or wetter than normal years during the past 21 years.  The deep canyon topography of the Western U.S. is ideal for creating large reservoirs, such as Lakes Mead and Powell on the Colorado River, and Roosevelt Lake on the Salt River in Arizona.  The reservoirs provide an assured water supply in dry years, provided the drought does not last too long.  Currently the reservoirs in the Southwest are about half full and are supplying an ever increasing population.  For more information about the current status of Arizona reservoirs, see the Salt River Project (SRP) Daily Water Report.  For more information about the history of the Salt-Verde Reservoir system, visit SRPs historical website.  For current water levels on Lakes Mead and Powell, click on the links.

Current Short-term Drought Status

Rain and snowfall due to a strong storm system that moved through the state from January 4th through the 10th brought short term drought relief to some parts of the state, although precipitation was not uniformly distributed. This has led to improvement in southern Gila County and across northern Arizona, primarily in Navajo, eastern Coconino and northern Apache counties. In some rangeland areas, precipitation filled stock ponds and saturated the soils, however, some areas in the northwestern part of the state have been consistently missed by both rainfall and snowfall for quite some time.

We anticipate that the precipitation will continue over the next few months as El Niño remains strong. If the precipitation continues as expected through March, there will be more short-term drought improvement.

Prepared by the State Drought Monitoring Technical Committee, February 2, 2016.


Current Long-term Drought Status

Early winter precipitation occurred in some parts of the state, but has not resulted in sufficient accumulation to warrant long-term drought improvement.

While streamflow is near normal in some areas, it is below average in many parts of the state, and snow pack is not sufficient to indicate improvement in water resources.

Aquifer recharge is slow across much of Arizona and groundwater resources will be reassessed in spring after the snowmelt has begun.

Posted February 3, 2016

The report for January – March 2016 will be posted in late April.

Historical US Drought