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The first water supply forecast for 2013 reflects both a slow start to the 2012-2013 snow accumulation season, as well as a storm track that has only intermittently targeted the New Mexico mountain regions so far this winter.
A dry autumn coupled with the late start to winter weather conditions add up to a disappointing early runoff forecast for New Mexico.
Forecast flows for the Rio Grande include 47 percent of normal into Cochiti Lake and 37 percent at Elephant Butte Lake. Other Rio Grande Basin reservoir forecast inflows range from 64 percent of normal at El Vado Lake to 41 percent of normal at Jemez Canyon Reservoir.
Inflow to Santa Rosa Lake is expected to be 39 percent of normal while in the San Juan Basin, Navajo Reservoir is expecting 62 percent of normal inflow.
Precipitation across New Mexico during December 2012 ranged from well below normal in the southeast plains to above normal in the north central mountains and the far northwest. Water Year 2013 precipitation, October through December 2012, was well below normal across the southern two thirds of New Mexico and below normal in the northern third of the state.
Surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service indicate that snowpack water content in the Rio Grande Basin as of January 1 was 71 percent of normal and 68 percent of one year ago. In the San Juan Basin the snowpack water content was 66 percent of normal and 80 percent of the total of January 1, 2012.
With the bulk of the snow accumulation season for the mountains yet to come, the prospects for near normal spring snow melt runoff across New Mexico will hinge on both the future storm track as well as the potential for another warm, dry and windy spring season. ENSO (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are expected to persist through mid 2013, offering scant hope for wetter than normal conditions across New Mexico through this spring.
The past two calendar years (2011 and 2012) have been the driest and warmest two year period on record for New Mexico. Weather records go back to 1895. Calendar year 2012 was the warmest on record and the second driest; only 1956 was drier in New Mexico. In light of these desiccating facts, it is no surprise that New Mexico reservoir storage is well below normal in the Rio Grande Basin, Canadian Basin, and Pecos Basin.