Repeated winter storms in the Four Corners improve drought conditions

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FARMINGTON, N.M. — Portions of San Juan County have seen up to 10 inches of precipitation over the last few months. That might not seem like a lot, but Andrew Mangham, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service, said that’s more than what the high desert usually gets.

“They are 200% above normal for the last three months whereas last year they were well below normal for the same period of time and so it’s just a completely different regime going on right now,” Mangham said.

It is also the type of precipitation that seeps into the ground.

“Repeated rounds of slow-acting moisture have really improved the soil moisture conditions up there and that is a big driver for some of the improvements to the drought conditions that were seeing,” Mangham said. “In fact, if you look at soil moisture percentiles, the soils up around San Juan County are about some of the wettest we have ever seen for San Juan County.”

While portions of the county are wet, others are still relatively dry.

“Right around the Four Corners it’s been especially wet down in the southeastern part of the county it’s been a little bit dry still — they’re kind of in a dry hole, so the drought picture is mixed,” Mangham said.

However, that rain and snow could make a huge difference for the entire state come spring.

“We got a little over 20 inches of liquid water ready to go in the San Juan Basin, which is outstanding, that melt will start out late April and will feed down into the rivers and run down through the valleys and so I think we are looking at a pretty good outlook in terms of water supply,” Mangham said.

Mangham added that it’s important to note even though current drought conditions have improved, New Mexico is still in a long-term drought that will require several years of this type of perception to fix.