Water Restrictions Begin, But Officials See Relief On Horizon

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Folks in Arizona like to boast about the state's dry heat, but in the summer, that lack of humidity and moisture normally translates into high fire danger and lower water stores.

Water conservation is at Level II in Payson and Level III in Pine.

Payson's water reservoirs are 87-percent full and restrictions are now in place. Payson's Water Resource Specialist Karen Probert says the water department is asking people to "just conserve."

Robert Hardcastle of Brooke Utilities in Pine and Strawberry, said, "Water staging conservation signs are always adjusted based on water production, storage, demand, effects of conservation, weather and other operational circumstances.

"The current aggregate circumstances warrant a Stage 3 water conservation level. If circumstances don't change and demand doesn't decrease, it is entirely possible that a Stage 4 or 5 will be in effect by the holiday weekend."

And where is the monsoon in all this?
Mike Staudenmaier, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, said the monsoons are just around the corner.

"Typically, it starts around the Fourth of July," he said. "By Friday, it will have started in Phoenix and Tucson, but it will not have started in Northern Arizona."

Monsoons are defined by a seasonal switch in the wind flow, he said.

"In the winter, there's a west to northwest wind," he said. "We transition from a southeast to south wind in the summer."

This causes a high-pressure system to develop over the Four Corners area.

"Because the circulation around the high-pressure system is clockwise, you end up with a southerly wind flow over Arizona in the summer," he said. "Most people think that monsoons are thunderstorms, but the moisture just comes northward because of the persistent southerly winds."

Staudenmaier said that low-level moisture comes from the Gulf of California, and mid- and high-level moisture, or thunderstorms, come from the Gulf of Mexico.

"Moisture, with the strong sun and the mountains, is lifted and forms thunderstorms every afternoon," he said. "That's why Phoenix gets theirs in the evening or early morning. It takes longer to move off the Mogollon Rim and into the desert region."

The monsoons, which are marked by cyclical patterns, continue until dry air moves in from the west.

"That explains the three, four or five days of sunny weather in the middle of the monsoon season," Staudenmaier said. "There's a break in the pattern until the wind shifts to the southerly direction that persists through much of the summer."

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