Let’s face it.
Life ain’t fair.
For instance, we live in Rim Country and everyone else, well, lives somewhere else.
Take the weather.
Payson enjoyed its first snowfall of the season. We could get more snow — but more likely rain — in the next couple of days.
And the rest of the West?
Well, actually, still in the grip in a drought.
The federal government is now threatening to impose water rationing on the seven states that get water from the Colorado River. If they don’t, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are projected to drop to “dead pool” in the next couple of years. That would mean Arizona, California and Nevada won’t get any Colorado River water at all.
By contrast, Payson’s replenishing its once dropping aquifer with water from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir — which remains at about 35% of its capacity, with the winter just starting and the runoff season still ahead.
Last week’s storm brought a welcome extension of a wet monsoon winter, although severe to exceptional drought continues across much of the West.
This week’s forecast calls for a 30%-60% chance of more rain in Payson — maybe snow in the higher elevations — Tuesday and Wednesday. The storm brought that delightful image of still-golden cottonwoods and sycamore on the East Verde River cloaked in white.
On Thursday, in the midst of the storm, Tonto Creek came out of seclusion to mutter along at 15 cubic feet per second. The Salt River gushed into Roosevelt Lake at 275 cfs.
Roosevelt Lake remains at 61%. The rest of the Salt River Project reservoirs remain at 80% or 90% full. The Verde River’s booming along at 210 cfs, underscoring the Salt and Verde resistance to drought documented in several studies.
Not so much over on the Colorado River. Lake Mead is now 183 feet below full pool — about 20 feet below the level at this time last year.
The seven states getting water from the Colorado River reservoirs blew through an August deadline to agree on a plan to drastically reduce water use if the drought continues. Arizona gets about a third of its water from the Central Arizona Project, which diverts water from below Lake Mead. So now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says is drawing up plans to impose cuts. Arizona has already given up 512,000 of its 2.8 million acre-foot allotment and will lose another 80,000 acre-feet next year even under the current formulas.
Last week most of Arizona remained “abnormally dry” with a sliver of “moderate drought” along the Colorado River. Colorado and New Mexico remained in similar shape.
By contrast, almost all of California remained in severe to exceptional drought, with the state’s normal fire season just starting. The severe to exceptional drought also gripped all of Nevada and Utah, as well as much of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.
The National Weather Service still maintains that the almost unprecedented third La Niña winter in a row will produce a warm, dry winter in most of the Southwest and California — but might paradoxically produce a normally wet, warm winter in Arizona and a wetter than normal winter in Oregon and maybe Washington.
If they’re right, California could face another awful wildfire year and much of the West will face deep cuts in the water supply.
But the weather has gotten weird all over — so the poor forecasters are including all kinds of wiggle words in their forecast. As the planet warms, the experts don’t really know what constitutes the “new normal.”
The 2.2 degree average increase in temperatures attributed in some measure to the heat-trapping pollutants in the atmosphere certainly doesn’t help, according to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change. The increasingly sophisticated computer climate models suggest that 42% of the current drought can be attributed to the human-caused greenhouse effect. Estimates suggest we’re currently in the 22nd year of the worst drought in the U.S. in 1,200 years.
Oddly enough, other studies suggest that the warming trend will produce more extreme weather in Arizona — with extra wet flood years alternating unpredictable with bone dry drought years.
That will likely cause all kinds of havoc for California and Arizona cities dependent on the Colorado River.
Not so much for Rim Country, with the C.C. Cragin Reservoir drawing on the more drought-tolerant watershed or for the White Mountains, the wettest area of Arizona.
But like we said.
Life ain’t fair.
Hope you threw some snowballs last week.