EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The story should have read: Bullhead City has a drought/water shortage contingency plan that began conservation measures in 2016, conserving $150,000 in water conservation rebate, said Bullhead City Vice Mayor Mark Clark. In 2017, the city conserved $200,000 in water conservation rebate and this year will conserve $250,000 in water conservation rebate.
BULLHEAD CITY — A historically dry winter has resulted in the expansion of severe drought status into Mohave County, according to the Governor’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group.
The group reported northern and western Arizona remained extremely dry in February, leading to a U.S. Drought Monitor expansion of severe drought status into Mohave County and across Coconino and Yavapai counties.
This winter ranks with Arizona’s driest years, including 2000 and 2006.
While the Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Colorado River water supplies report released Friday noted February storms produced a lot of activity in the Western Rockies, snowpack remains poor to historically poor.
“While there is some expectation of additional precipitation occurring mid-March, the operative word for the season overall appears to be… dismal,” according to the ADWR report.
“Storms have started to bring precipitation to certain areas,” said Greg Smith, senior hydrologist at the Forecast Center, during the March 7 briefing, as reported by ADWR. “Not all areas, but some in areas where we hadn’t done too well previously.”
Because season averages — especially in the system’s southern regions — have been so dry, a moderately moist February would do little to make up the difference, Smith said.
“Going south, we’re seeing really poor numbers,” he said. The lower basin has been really dismal all year. It’s been really, really dry.”
The majority of the Lower Colorado River Basin, including Arizona and New Mexico, has seen below average precipitation dating back to July. The warm and dry conditions this winter, combined with an early end to the monsoon season, led to rapid intensification and spread of short-term drought conditions across Arizona, said Andrew Brischke, University of Arizona agriculture natural resources area assistant agent
“The update of the Drought Monitor shows all of Arizona observing at least moderate levels of drought and almost 65 percent (of the state) at the severe level or worse,” Brischke said.
Among his other work, Brischke compiles local drought impact statements that are submitted to U.S. Drought Monitor, Arizona Department of Water Resources and National Weather Service. The reports are among the many data points used to inform drought status interpretation.
“We had a really good summer that carried us through October, but there was no significant rain between Sept. 9 and a rain event in January,” Brischke said.
Mohave County was abnormally dry from November through December, and moderately dry between December and January, moving into severe drought between February and March, Brischke said, noting his belief is that the severe drought status should have been extended farther north into Mohave County.
Bullhead City Vice Mayor Mark Clark was on the Bureau of Reclamation telephone meeting Wednesday to hear the latest reporting.
“It’s really bad out there,” he said.
The water season runs through the end of April and the bureau will release another seasonal moisture recap in May, Clark said.
“We’ll know well in advance if a shortage is going to be declared,” Clark said. “But in August the bureau will announce whether or not a shortage will happen.”
In August, BuRec will release its study of hydrology and projected operations of the Colorado River system and will use the projections to determine whether Lake Mead may fall to levels that could trigger a shortage declaration.
If the levels fall to 1,075 feet above sea level, Arizona and Nevada begin taking delivery shortfalls, according to a 2007 agreement.
“If declared, it likely won’t be more than a Tier 1 shortage and Central Arizona Project will take the full hit of 320,000 acre-feet reduction,” Clark said. “We won’t see any reductions here.”
An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, enough to support three Mohave County households for one year.
One positive note is that Lake Powell has higher levels this year than last year, Clark said, and there may be a release out of Lake Powell to Lake Mead.
The forecast indicates increased chances of below-average precipitation and increased chances of above-average temperatures through June, Brischke said.
“I’m still holding out hope there is a chance we won’t have a shortage declared next year,” Clark said. “CAP is keeping water behind the dam and California may do something as well.”
Bullhead City has a drought/water shortage contingency plan that began conservation measures in 2016, conserving $150,000 in water conservation rebate, said Bullhead City Vice Mayor Mark Clark. In 2017, the city conserved $200,000 in water conservation rebate and this year will conserve $250,000 in water conservation rebate.
“We’re doing more than our fair share to conserve water,” Clark said. “If we get to the point where we have to starting cutting water use, we have several plans in place to conserve more so our residents are not impacted.”