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Arizona snowfalls sign of low springtime water supplies

Winter drought has resurfaced in Arizona. Abnormal dryness has developed and precipitation in November and December 2006 has been less than 50 percent of normal across the north central mountain watersheds.

Scientists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) measure snow pack in Arizona’s mountain watershed areas throughout the winter to forecast and track the state’s surface water supplies for the next year.

In ’06, Arizona experienced the biggest shortfall of winter precipitation since NASS began measuring snow pack in the 1930s. In ’07, the National Weather Service expects temporary relief from the long-term drought as a result of the on-going El Nino.

Chief meteorologist Tony Haffer said precipitation from El Nino should occur between mid-January through March and predicts above-normal precipitation for the three-month period.

“Even so, a few months of above average snowfall may not bring us up to normal water levels, and it won’t end the drought,” Haffer said.

Preliminary data from high elevation monitoring stations show snow pack levels are 33 percent of average over the Grand Canyon basin, 38 percent of average over the Salt River basin, 40 percent of average over the Verde River basin, and 40 percent of average over the San Francisco-Upper Gila River basin.

The Little Colorado River basin snow pack stands at 41 percent of average as of Jan. 1. In the Chuska Mountains on the Navajo Nation, snow pack levels are 41 percent of average, while on the Defiance Plateau snow pack levels were monitored at 31 percent of average.

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