Recent precipitation aids Arizona’s short-term drought, long-term issues persist

Jan 29, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2023, 7:20 am

A rain cloud hangs over Lake Powell on June 24, 2021 in Page, Arizona. As severe drought grips part...

A rain cloud hangs over Lake Powell on June 24, 2021 in Page, Arizona. As severe drought grips parts of the Western United States, a below average flow of water is expected to flow through the Colorado River Basin into two of its biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Lake Powell is currently at 34.56 percent of capacity, a historic low. The lake stands at 138.91 feet below full pool and has dropped 44 feet in the past year. The Colorado River Basin supplies water to 40 million people in seven western states. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona has experienced more rain and snow than normal this winter, which weather experts say has improved the state’s short-term drought.

The Southwest, including states around Arizona, would need years of more consistent rainfall to counter the region’s current long-term that drought affects water resources, though, National Weather Service in Phoenix meteorologist Jared Heil explained in an informational video posted on Friday.

Phoenix has seen 4.03 inches of precipitation since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, which is 160% of normal rainfall. Most counties saw above average precipitation in December, excluding Mohave, La Paz, Yuma and Yavapai, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Flagstaff has had 84.5 inches of snow thus far, which is also approximately 160% greater than average, according to NWS.

“Last June, Phoenix was in a severe drought and areas up toward Lake Mead were in an exceptional drought,” Heil said. “Fast forward, drought status has been removed from much of the state, abnormally dry conditions persist in western Maricopa County and moderate drought continues along the Colorado River and toward the Grand Canyon.”

This has led to the Salt River System hitting 78% capacity before much of the snow in the state has melted, a major improvement from last year’s 71% at this point.

Heil pointed out, though, that the long-term drought has developed over the past two-plus decades and will not be exalted in one season.

He said in order for the Colorado River system to be replenished, inland areas in Utah, Colorado, Nevada and northern Arizona will need a lot more rain over several years.

Lake Mead is at 28% capacity and Lake Powell at 24%.

“The Colorado Basin still continues to face quite a few challenges,” Heil said citing warmer summers and winters amid a changing climate.

NWS’ outlook for the spring forecasts below normal precipitation for the upcoming months after a wet January.

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Recent precipitation aids Arizona’s short-term drought, long-term issues persist