new mexico drought

While the eastern section of the United States freezes and it rains in Alaska where there is an unprecidented heat wave, out here in the west we are back to the drought conditions that have lasted for years. There has been no precipitation in Taos since a dusting of snow a few days after Christmas. Really, there hasn’t been much moisture to hit the ground since early December. A local broadcast meteorologist stated yesterday that this is our longest dry spell since the 1920s. If things don’t change we could be looking at a very destructive fire season when spring comes around.

new mexico drought

Snowpack around the state ranged from three-quarters of average in the Sangre de Cristos to less than half in the headwaters of the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico. Federal officials met with local

water agencies this week to discuss possible first-ever shortfalls of water for the San Juan-Chama Project, which imports San Juan River water for use in the Rio Grande Basin. And on the Rio Grande itself, the January forecast calls for 59 percent of normal flow into Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico.

“It’s bad,” said John Longworth, head of the Water Use and Conservation Bureau at the Office of State Engineer.


The immediate problem is a high-pressure ridge in the atmosphere running down the west coast of North America that is blocking the winter storm track, keeping much of the western half of the continent dry. A stretch of the country from northern California to central Texas has received essentially no rain or snow this year.

new mexico drought


We headed out for a hike in the sun along the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge.  It was dry and dusty and the river 700 feet below was thin, shallow and green.  The little bit of snow left in the shadows down in the gorge is left over from two months ago.

One person we ran into on the trail said that the growers across the border in Colorado needed to be stopped.  That they were sucking up all the groundwater that typically feeds the Rio Grande.  “It needs to stop,” he said.

2013 is New Mexico’s third consecutive year of drought, with the state suffering some of the warmest and driest conditions in the state since record-keeping began. From the town of Maxwell in the state’s northeast, where municipal water supplies are running low, to the farming valleys of the south, where farmers are struggling and tension with Texas is flaring over scarce Rio Grande water, drought’s impact is being felt across the state.

Scarcity always seems to bring blame.




  1. Comment by ann cabezas creed

    ann cabezas creed Reply January 29, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Toas, New Mexico–a beautiful place—but thirsty for water.

    You just were in Costa Rica which has abundant water. Both rainfall six months of the year and deep natural springs bursting from the sides of the mountain ranges.

  2. Comment by Lance | Trips By Lance

    Lance | Trips By Lance Reply January 29, 2014 at 10:49 am

    This is sad. We were in the region back in October. I had no clue the drought conditions are so bad there.

  3. Comment by Corinne Vail

    Corinne Vail Reply January 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Gorgeous…love the colors!

  4. Comment by Ron Hagg

    Ron Hagg Reply January 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Jim – We went for the first time to the San Luis Valley. We went on Christmas day. I was really surprised to see the mass amount of irrigation and very large watering wheels. They use a ton of water. Sad for the Rio Grande.

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