New Mexico’s water outlook threatens outdoor activities

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico’s ongoing drought increases the fire danger. But it’s also doing something else.

KOB 4 meteorologist Brandon Richards shows us how the drought is also drying up opportunities for outdoor fun.

The fire danger is worse than it’s been in decades and now many of the state’s forests are closed.

“We are in the middle of what people are referring to a 20-year mega-drought,” said Andrew Mangham, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. “Generally all of our rivers, all of our lakes, are running quite low, and that is going to affect our recreational access.” 

An outlook from the Climate Prediction Center says summer 2022 is going to be hotter and drier for most of the state. So what about those summer plans? The restrictions may go beyond forest access.

Most of the state’s big reservoirs are the major focal points for recreation around the state. But the reservoirs are there for water supply management.  Now those are all running low, piers are standing dry, it is harder to get out to the water, and fish are getting concentrated or dying off because of some of the extreme heat we are getting. So, every aspect of water-based recreation is going to be negatively impacted. 

Mangum says La Niña is to blame for dismal winter snow. 

“We get much less precipitation in our northern mountain ranges, and much lower snowpacks, much drier conditions and that puts us kind of a step behind for the water budget for the year,” said Magnum.   

But you might be surprised to learn, that La Niña doesn’t have a death grip on us year-round. Interestingly, La Niña can help with monsoon rains.

However, Mangum says, we would need more than just one good season to end the mega-drought.

“We need sustained wet patterns, for a few years. To really start to bring our rivers back up, we need to get out of the La Niña pattern for the wintertime, we need big heavy snowpacks. That is a huge player in this state.” 

More snow means higher lake levels and more opportunities for fun.

And before you head for your recreational plans this summer, know before you go. Check on any restrictions and closures out there, so you can be safe as possible.