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Arizona closing in on two decades of drought

PHOENIX — Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny said the state has been in varying degrees of drought since 1997, but Arizona isn’t close to an extended water shortage yet.

“Normal droughts in the past century spanned about 20 years,” he said.

But the state has been through mega droughts before. Some lasted more than a century and there’s no guarantee that we’re not in the early stages of another mega drought.

“Whether this drought will be incredibly long remains to be seen,” Cerveny said. “We can’t see that far into the future. A long-term drought contributed to the fall of the early Native Americans civilizations in Arizona in the 1300s and 1500s.”

Another concern to Cerveny is Arizona’s continued population growth.

“That puts even greater demand on what rain and snowfall we do get,” he said. “Simply, we have so many more people and that water can only be stretched so far.”

Complicating the drought is the fact that Phoenix’s only winter rainfall came on March 1.

“That storm helped,” said Cerveny. “If we hadn’t received that storm we’d be in desperate shape. We went for 70 days without rain until then.”

The National Weather Service said if Phoenix doesn’t receive another drop of rain this winter, this will be the 26th driest winter in Valley history.