Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for March 2015

Drought expands over Midwest, intensifies over West



By Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist

Drought: Drought conditions spread over the Upper Midwest and intensified over the West during March. Areas on the Gulf Coast and in the Tennessee Valley improved. March ended with 36.84 percent of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse, compared with 32.83 percent at the end of February. Severe drought increased from 16.42 to 18.60 percent, extreme drought increased from 8.82 to 8.97 percent and exceptional drought increased from 3.30 to 3.34 percent of the area. March ended with 78 million people being impacted by drought compared to 76.1 million at the end of February.

Outlook: Persistence and intensification of drought during April is expected. Forecasters anticipate further development of drought in South Dakota and Nebraska, while some improvements are likely over the Gulf Coast and east Texas.

Temperatures: Continuing with the conditions that have dominated 2015 up to this point, March was warm over the western United States and cold over the Northeast. In Texas, Arkansas and the Ohio River Valley as well as much of the Mid-Atlantic, temperatures were 2-4 degrees below normal, and New England was 4-8 degrees cooler than normal. But the western United States was 4-8 degrees warmer than usual. Much of the Southeast was also 2-6 degrees above normal.

Precipitation: Dry conditions dominated the West and portions of the Southeast. Above-normal precipitation was recorded from Texas up through Kentucky and into the Mid-Atlantic states during the month, with departures of up to 8 inches above normal in portions of east Texas and southwest Arkansas.

Regional Overviews


Below-normal temperatures kept spring on hold in March. Temperatures were generally 6-8 degrees below normal over much of the Northeast. Dry conditions also dominated the region, where most locations were 1-2 inches below normal for the month. Drought concerns were held off with the cold temperatures but abnormally dry conditions spread during March to almost half of the region.


Warmer than normal conditions were recorded in the Southeast during March, with some areas of Florida recording temperatures of 6 degrees above normal. Along with the warmer temperatures, dryness dominated the region. Much of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia were 3-4 inches below normal for the month. Even with the dryness and warm temperatures, drought-related impacts were at a minimum, with the region showing a slight decrease in drought during March. March ended with just 4.28 percent of the region in drought compared to 4.44 percent at the end of February.

Movers & Shakers for March 2015

Percent area

Feb. 24, 2015

Percent area

March 31, 2015

Status Percentage point change

Biggest increases in drought
12.20 39.75 severe 27.55
Idaho 34.53 39.05 moderate 4.52
Kansas 41.70 68.70 moderate 27.00
18.67 22.45 severe 3.78
Minnesota 5.67 91.94 moderate 86.27
Nebraska 0.00 22.49 moderate 22.49
Nevada 63.84 79.50 severe 15.66
North Dakota
9.53 21.14 moderate 11.61

65.55 68.62 moderate 3.07
37.38 extreme 9.58
South Dakota
4.46 42.78 moderate 38.32
Utah 17.85 51.83 severe 33.98
9.32 extreme 7.44
Wisconsin 0.00
55.36 moderate 55.36
Biggest decreases in drought
17.22 13.79 moderate 3.43
Arizona 4.94 0.97 extreme 3.97
19.99 0.00 moderate 19.99
4.55 0.00
severe 4.55
Hawaii 50.33 26.36 moderate 23.97
Kentucky 8.84 0.00 moderate 8.84
Louisiana 52.16 18.54 moderate 33.62
Mississippi 26.93 3.76 moderate 23.17
New Mexico
67.61 62.11 moderate 5.50
25.98 18.75 severe 7.23
3.70 0.00 extreme 3.70
Tennessee 5.69 0.00 moderate 5.69
Texas 43.39 36.62 moderate 6.77


Much of the Midwest was colder than normal in March, with departures from normal of 4-6 degrees quite common. The Upper Midwest was the exception, where temperatures were 2-4 degrees above normal for the month. Much of the region was dry in March with typical departures of up to 2 inches below normal. Areas of southern Missouri, southern Illinois, Kentucky, southern Indiana, and Ohio were 2-4 inches wetter than usual. The warm and dry conditions over the Upper Midwest led to a significant expansion of drought in March. Almost all of Minnesota and northern Wisconsin are now in moderate drought. Moderate drought covers 21.85 percent of the region compared to 1.69 percent at the end of February.

High Plains

Temperatures were warm for the month, with most areas 2-6 degrees above normal, and the greatest departures over the Dakotas. Dry conditions accompanied the warmer-than-normal temperatures. Most of the region was 1-3 inches below normal for the month. Drought worsened with the combination of warm and dry conditions. Drought now covers 35.96 percent of the region compared to 20.66 percent at the end of February. Severe drought increased from 5.51 to 11.90 percent.


Areas of Texas and Arkansas were cool and wet during March with temperatures 2-4 degrees below normal and precipitation 4-6 inches above normal. Areas of western Oklahoma, southern Louisiana and Mississippi were 2-4 degrees above normal for the month. Much of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle were 1-3 inches below normal for precipitation in March while most of the rest of the region was normal or above. Drought conditions improved during March with 29.63 percent of the region now in drought compared to 40.23 percent at the end of February. Severe drought improved from 20.98 to 19.60 percent, while extreme drought worsened from 10.95 to 12.60 percent of the region. Exceptional drought improved from 3.02 to 2.79 percent.


Temperatures were again well above normal in March, with departures of 4-6 degrees quite common throughout the region. Some areas of Arizona, New Mexico, eastern Washington, and northern Idaho saw precipitation totals that were slightly above normal. Most of the rest of the West was below normal, by as much as 6-8 inches in parts of California. The area in drought was unchanged in the region, although a few places intensified. Severe drought increased from 31.06 to 36.89 percent of the region, and exceptional drought increased from 7.04 to 7.23 percent.



California braces for a fourth dry year, with impacts to water supplies, wildlife, tourism and more


This chart shows impacts color-coded by category for each of the eight most-affected states in March 2015, from the NDMC's Drought Impact Reporter.

The most frequently mentioned categories of impacts in March were Water Supply & Quality;  Relief, Response & Restrictions; Society & Public Health; and Agriculture.


This report from the California Department of Water Resources shows snowpack at 5% of average for April 1, normally the peak.

As of March 31, water levels in all but one of the reservoirs on this chart from DWR were below historic averages.


This time series from Water Data for Texas shows that monitored Texas reservoir levels were 70.2% full on April 13, near the historic minimum.

This map from Water Data for Texas shows that many reservoirs in the Panhandle and north-central parts of the state were still low in mid-April.

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

The effects of drought became more apparent in March as winter ended and farmers prepared for the growing season. Snowpack on the West Coast was abysmally low, and water districts were warning customers of slim to no water deliveries. California, in its fourth year of drought, was in the direst straits, with sparse snowpack and below normal storage in its reservoirs. Western Nevada was feeling the pinch, too, with water shortfalls and restrictions on deliveries and water use. California, Nevada and Texas had the greatest number of impacts in the Drought Impact Reporter for March, with 71, 11 and 10, respectively. The monthly impact count rebounded after the winter lull and became more illustrative of the drought situation across the U.S.

Snowpack very low along the West Coast

Water managers along the West Coast were dejected as the late season snow depth figures came in, indicating alarmingly scant water supplies this year. In California, the average snow water content in the Sierra Nevada was 5 percent of normal, far lower than 2012, 2013 and 2014 when the average snowpack was more than 15 inches, nearly 49 inches and more than 12 inches, respectively.

In Oregon, automated snow sites in the Deschutes/Crooked River Basin showed 8 percent of average. The river basin and Central Oregon had this much in common: little snow at middle elevations and more snow up higher.  The average statewide snowpack in Washington was about 27 percent of normal, as of mid-March.  The Lake Tahoe area on the California-Nevada border saw even less snow, with 3 percent of normal, because much of the snow had melted already at nearly all measuring sites, which hurt ski resorts.
“Will California's drastic drought measures make a difference?”
CBS News, April 2, 2015
Snowpack remains slight,” by Dylan J. Darling, The Bulletin (Bend, Ore.), April 1, 2015
“Wash. Gov. Inslee declares drought emergency,”
Herald and News (Klamath Falls, Ore.), March 14, 2015
“State to lease water to bolster summer stream flow,”
by Kate Prengaman, Yakima Herald-Republic (Wash.), April 2, 2015
“Drought: Sierra snowpack 'worst in a century,'” by Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), April 1, 2015

California drought response

Governor orders mandatory water restrictions in California

Gov. Jerry Brown on April 1 ordered mandatory water restrictions requiring Californians to curtail water use by 25 percent, compared to 2013 levels. A similar January 2014 request for 20 percent water conservation went unmet, apart from December 2014, when water savings reached 22.2 percent. This year’s order came as the state’s April 1 snow measurement revealed 5 percent of average, the smallest amount of snow for that date since record-keeping began 65 years ago. The executive order includes numerous other actions, in addition to the mandated 25 percent cut in water use.

  • Replacement of 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping, in partnership with local governments.
  • Creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models.
  • Campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes must make significant cuts in water use.
  • New homes and developments may not irrigate with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used. Watering of ornamental grass on public street medians is banned.
  • Water rate structures must be adjusted to implement conservation pricing at local level.
  • Agricultural water users must report more water use information to state regulators.
  • Water agencies in depleted groundwater basins will face consequences if they have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state.
  • Standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residential communities will be updated. Communities that ignore these standards will face consequences.
  • Monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers will be made permanent.California braces for a fourth dry year, with impacts to water supplies, wildlife, tourism and more.

Executive Order B-29-15

Critics of the order lambasted the exclusion of agriculture and hydraulic fracturing from the restrictions, pointing out that agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water. The governor responded with the reminder that growers got no water in 2014 and expected precious little this year, demonstrating that growers have already been forced to cut back.

“California governor orders mandatory water restrictions,” by Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle (, April 1, 2015

Water Control Board tightens restrictions

The California State Water Resources Control Board in mid-March tightened water restrictions to prolong water supplies. Among the new water-conserving mandates, taking effect in late April or early May:

  • Restaurant patrons must not be served water automatically.
  • Hotel guests must be given the option of reusing towels and sheets.
  • Local water departments must limit days of permitted lawn watering. Homeowners may not irrigate yards during or within two days of rainfall.
  • Local water departments must alert customers to leaks.
  • Water restrictions instituted in July 2014 remain in effect.
  • Local water departments must report how they enforce the new rules.

“California drought: State OKs sweeping restrictions on water use,” by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle (, March 17, 2015
“California passes mandatory new water conservation rules on lawns, hotels, restaurants,”
by Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), March 18, 2015

California enacts $1 billion plan for infrastructure, drought relief, flood protection

Two bills hastening the spending of more than $1 billion in water infrastructure and drought relief funds were signed into effect by Gov. Jerry Brown on March 27. The bills include $267 million for safe drinking water and water recycling projects and $75 million for aid to communities with dry wells, fish in drying streams and other needs. The proposal also contains $660 million in spending for flood protection rather than drought.
“Gov. Brown signs $1 billion water plan,” the Associated Press, The Daily Journal (San Mateo, Calif.), March 26, 2015
“California Senate moves $1 billion water plan amid drought ,” by Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), March 25, 2015

Low water allocations for farmers, municipalities… again

Water customers, from farmers to cities, appear to be looking at another year of meager water allocations with low reservoirs and little snowpack to fill reservoirs. The State Water Project increased its allocation estimate to 20 percent of contracted amounts, up from its January estimate of 15 percent. While the uptick is an improvement, this amount would still be the SWP’s second-lowest water delivery since 1990. The State Water Project serves 25 million Californians and farmland in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. In 2014, water customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta received 5 percent of their requested allotments.
“California officials to supply just 20 percent of water,” by Scott Smith, Napa Valley Register (Calif.), March 2, 2015

For the second consecutive year, the federal Central Valley Project announced it will provide no water for most Central Valley farmers, but will provide 25 percent of allotments for urban areas, such as Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. In 2014, those south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta received no water.
“As California Drought Enters 4th Year, Conservation Efforts and Worries Increase,”
by Adam Nagourney, The New York Times, March 17, 2015

Water going to the highest bidder

Water resources have become more valuable than ever before, with some water agencies along the West Coast warning their customers of the likelihood of little to no water or buying water at astronomical prices. A group of SoCal water districts purchased 115,000 acre-feet of water from rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley at a cost of $71 million. Some of the farmers received a payment reflecting a price for water that was three times as much as it cost in 2010, making water sales more lucrative than farming. Consequently, rice acreage in 2015 will be lower than in 2014, when rice production was down 25 percent for lack of water. This water transaction and others are indicative of the market forces shifting water allocations in California.
“As drought worsens, L.A. water agency offers cash to Sacramento Valley farmers,” by Dale Kasler, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), March 12, 2015
As California Drought Enters 4th Year, Conservation Efforts and Worries Increase,” by Adam Nagourney, The New York Times, March 17, 2015

Water rate hikes necessary, but unpopular

When water providers promote water conservation, less water is sold, amounting to less revenue, but fixed costs remain. Three large Bay Area water providers—the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission—were considering raising water rates by as much as 30 percent to compensate for reduced revenue. The public backlash caused the Santa Clara Valley Water District to revise its rate hike estimate from 31 percent to 19 percent.
“California drought: Big water rate hikes considered by Bay Area agencies,” by Paul Rogers and James Urton, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), March 7, 2015

Most Californians think fellow citizens could save more water

In spite of the water rate increases that commonly follow lower water use, 66 percent of Californians feel that their neighbors could save more water and that local water supplies will be very inadequate or somewhat inadequate in a decade, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.
“California drought: Most say neighbors could do more to conserve,” by Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle (, March 25, 2015

Cal Fire preparing for early wildfires

Since the start of 2015, California wildfires scorched 3,321 acres through April 4, in comparison with the 5-year average of 1,189 acres for the same interval of time, and the number of wildfires was above average at 588, compared to the 5-year average of 412, according to Cal Fire. Drought and increased fire risk had the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection staying at its highest level ever of statewide readiness through the winter. In SoCal, the fire season goes year-round, while in Northern California, exceedingly dry vegetation and warm temperatures have elevated the fire danger, keeping fire crews vigilant. The department also intended to boost manpower to peak summertime staffing in early June, four to six weeks ahead of schedule. More than 300 fire engines will be positioned across the state, with a fourth person assigned to each fire crew, usually consisting of three people. Additional firefighters and aircraft will also be on hand.
“California drought making wildfires a year-round threat,” by Ellen Knickmeyer, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), March 17, 2015

Impacts to Energy, Ag, People

California's hydropower production continued its decline

During the past three years, declining hydropower production in California cost utility customers an estimated $1.4 billion as power from alternate sources, such as natural gas-fired plants, was purchased to compensate for reduced hydroelectric production. The use of more fossil fuels also drove California carbon dioxide emissions up 8 percent. With even less water on hand for 2015, hydropower generation will likely decline further. The information on drought’s effects on energy production came from a study by the non-profit Pacific Institute, a water-related think tank based in Oakland, California.
California first to feel hydro-power crunch of drought,” by Associated Press, CBS2/KCAL9 (Studio City, Calif.), March 21, 2015

California agricultural production reduced

California agriculture suffered in 2014 for lack of water, with losses reaching $2.2 billion. At least 400,000 acres were fallowed. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation stated that in 2015, damage could easily be 50 percent greater, with possibly more than one million acres left unplanted. With the State Water Project offering just 20 percent of allocations and the Central Valley Project providing no water, agricultural losses can do little but climb.
As California Drought Enters 4th Year, Conservation Efforts and Worries Increase,” by Adam Nagourney, The New York Times, March 17, 2015

San Joaquin Valley families facing hunger, struggling to pay utility bills

The variability of seasonal employment and drought continued to sap work opportunities and limited monthly income for workers in the San Joaquin Valley, making it harder for families to get by. As a result, the Fresno Economics Opportunities Commission and Salvation Army were helping people pay utility bills. The Community Food Bank provides food assistance to 280,000 people monthly.
Fresno agencies seeing more people in need of energy, food help,” by Barbara Anderson, The Fresno Bee (Calif.), March 4, 2015

Drought lowered South Coast air quality

The South Coast Air Quality Management District saw 25 no-burn days during the 2014-15 winter as the air quality deteriorated, due to drought and little rain. No-burn days are called when forecasts predict the air pollution levels will rise above the federal 24-hour limits at the monitoring station in Mira Loma. During the 2013-2014 winter season, there were 16 no-burn days.
Air quality suffers as fewer winter storms wash away smog, pollution,” by Aaron Orlowski, Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), March 17, 2015

California fish need help to survive another drought year

Salmon smolts

Low reservoirs and dwindling rivers thwarted young fish headed to the ocean, greatly dimming their chances of survival. Chinook salmon were trucked to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in an effort that will continue through mid-May. Salmon were also transported to the delta in the spring of 2014.
“Drought prompts truck and release of salmon smolts in Rio Vista,” by Ed Fletcher, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), March 26, 2015

Steelhead trout

As endangered steelhead trout in the American River prepared to hatch, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation temporarily increased outflow through gates—a rare event—in the face of Folsom Dam to draw out cold water from deeper parts of the reservoir to cool water in the American River for the nearly hatched fish. The brevity of the water release illustrated the concern about conserving the state's precious water.
“Drought threatens American River fish,” by Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), March 28, 2015

Delta smelt

A March survey of Delta smelt found just six fish, the smallest March count ever recorded, according to environmental groups and scientists. Drought and delta water diversion were blamed for the population collapse, which may lead to extinction of the species. An emergency ruling easing environmental requirements in February and March permitted water releases to decrease salinity in the delta.
“Fate of Delta smelt sinks as numbers drop,” by Denis Cuff, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), March 17, 2015

West Coast tourism

Ski resorts closing early

Numerous ski resorts from Washington to California succumbed to the thin snowpack and closed their doors early, particularly in the Sierra Nevada. Tahoe-area hotels saw fewer guests after the warm, dry January melted the snow. Bookings were good at the start of the season, but the deteriorating snow condition since February led to fewer bookings than usual.
“Poor snow conditions ends Sugar Bowl ski season,” The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), March 18, 2015

Resorts offering alternative activities

Many Sierra Nevada resorts were adapting to less snowy winters by offering more warm weather activities and events to keep visitors entertained year round. Some Sierra Nevada resorts were constructing zip lines, mountain bike trails and wedding venues.
“Drought alters the face of Tahoe tourism,” by Dale Kasler and Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.), March 21, 2015

Yosemite National Park: road opening early, visitors urged to try different activities

Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park opened March 28, the earliest date in the park’s history, as drought and warm temperatures chased away what little snow fell in the park during the winter. Due to the lack of snow, visitor bureaus were emphasizing different activities in the park. Majestic Yosemite Falls was not highlighted so much, and instead, activities like hiking, biking and photography were recommended to prospective visitors. Famous falls were expected to run dry in June.
“Earliest opening in 20 years for Yosemite's Glacier Point Road,” by Mark Forgione, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2015
“In store for visitors to Yosemite: a drier, browner park,” by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2015

State of Washington drought response

Low snowpack leads to drought emergency in Washington

Precipitation in Washington has been about average, but has fallen as rain instead of snow, pointing to water shortages this summer. With little water for the coming summer, Gov. Inslee declared a drought emergency on March 13 for the Olympic Peninsula, east side of the central Cascades including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region.
“Governor declares drought emergency in some parts of state,” by Phuong Le, Associated Press, Everett Herald (Wash.), March 13, 2015

Washington seeking funds for drought relief

The Washington Department of Ecology was creating a drought relief plan and sought nearly $9 million from the Legislature. The funds would be used for emergency well drilling, leasing water rights and installing pumps or pipelines.
“State officials ask lawmakers for $9M in case of drought,” Associated Press, Everett Herald (Wash.), March 9, 2015

Washington seeks water to lease

The Washington Department of Ecology was seeking irrigators willing to lease water to supplement stream flow in the Upper Yakima Basin because streams in the upper watershed could run dry this summer. Ecology was interested in senior water rights for tributaries north of Yakima and will pay the water rights holders to not divert water this summer.
“State to lease water to bolster summer stream flow,” by Kate Prengaman, Yakima Herald-Republic (Wash.), April 2, 2015

Washington warns of dust storms

The Washington Ecology Department warned residents of Central and Eastern Washington to carry dust masks, due to the likelihood of dust storms. The warm, dry winter, strong winds and drying fields and forest beds, could cause dust storms and respiratory problems in the very young and people with asthma.
“First a snowpack drought, now haboobs,” by Jim Camden, Spokane Spokesman-Review (Wash.), March 18, 2015

Southern Great Plains

Texas ranchers cautious on rebuilding herds

Some North Texas ranchers remained wary of rebuilding their cattle herds as four years of drought and low water supplies persisted and the cost of cattle continued to be prohibitive. Beef prices have been rising for years due to the cattle herd decreasing in drought-affected areas, high feed costs and other issues.
“Will wet weather help North Texas ranchers beef up herds?” by Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas) , March 25, 2015

Court ruling protects Texas’ senior water rights holders

In a monumental victory for senior water rights holders in Texas, the state cannot take water from senior water rights holders and give it to cities or power generators, even if the water is needed for public health, safety and welfare. Junior water rights holders, however, are not protected from such curtailments. The 13th Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling on the matter.
“Water Ruling Cuts State's Power in Droughts,” by Jim Malewitz, The Texas Tribune (Austin), April 2, 2015

Oklahoma recreation and wildlife affected by low water levels

Water bodies have not recovered from drought in Oklahoma, affecting recreation and wildlife. The low water level of Skiatook Lake in northeastern Oklahoma brought changes to access points and docks. A little more than 100 miles to the west, marshes in the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in north central Oklahoma shrank from 465 acres down to just 28 acres, as drought dried up the marshland. Fewer birds visited the refuge.
“Low water levels at Skiatook Lake force adjustments by marina, Army Corps of Engineers,” by Rhett Morgan, Tulsa World (Okla.), March 3, 2015
“Drought affecting Salt Plains, but birds still are coming back,” (Enid, Okla.), March 9, 2015

Western U.S.

Officials seek water conservation in and around Reno, Nevada

In western Nevada, also in its fourth year of drought, residents of Reno and Sparks were asked by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority to voluntarily curb their water use by a minimum of 10 percent from 2013 use.  In August 2014, TMWA dipped into drought reserves for the first time in 20 years.

To the southeast of Reno, excessive groundwater pumping far beyond the recharge rate caused the water table to plummet in the Mason and Smith valleys. The state engineer issued an order in February curtailing water use, and farmers, with the support of the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, have responded by challenging the order.
“Cut water use in Reno-Sparks now, TMWA says,” by Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.), March 19, 2015
"Nevada Farmers Fight Water Restrictions,” by Laney Olson, Courthouse News Service (Pasadena, Calif.), March 16, 2015

Oregon sees low snowpack, concerns about wildfire season

Meager snowfall in Oregon left about three-quarters of the 82 automated snow sites maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service with no snow, as of March 19. As dry weather sapped the state of moisture, federal low-interest loans became available to small businesses in 13 counties to offset drought-related economic losses. The parched landscape also brought an early start to the fire season with grass fires popping up earlier than usual at a time of year when vegetation is typically green. With the extreme wildfire season in 2014, consuming 846,945 acres through Oct. 10, Oregon officials fear that the state’s wildfire insurance deductible may skyrocket, or that Lloyd’s will not issue the policy.
“Warm, dry conditions spark grass fires,” by George Plaven, (Pendleton, Ore.), March 25, 2015
“Feds declare drought emergency in 13 Oregon counties, releasing aid money,” by Kelly House, (Portland), March 20, 2015
“Oregon State Wildfire Insurance In Jeopardy,” by Riley Stevenson, Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, Ore.), March 25, 2015
“Pacific Northwest 2014 highlight fire statistics,” Oregon Department of Forestry, Oct. 17, 2014

New Mexico farmers likely to plant fewer chiles again

Dry weather and low irrigation allotments, stemming from drought, have New Mexico chile farmers producing less than previous years. In 2014, 7,700 acres of chile were harvested, a 10 percent drop from 2013 and the lowest production since 1972. With low snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, irrigation supplies for farmers were expected to be sparse again in 2015.
“Amount of chile produced in New Mexico continues to drop,” by Diana Alba Soular, Las Cruces Sun-News (N.M.), March 7, 2015

Dry Utah seeing extreme fire behavior, anticipating water shortages

Northern Utah was experiencing dry vegetation and extreme fire behavior, and anticipated water shortages in Weber and Davis counties by Oct. 1 or sooner. The average snowpack in the state was about 65 percent of normal, and reservoir storage was 63 percent.
“Fire season off to early, strong start in areas of Utah,” by Mike Anderson, Deseret News (Utah), March 20, 2015
“Water is coming, but please conserve, experts urge,” by Bryon Saxton, Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah), April 2, 2015
“Warm and dry conditions greet those trying to solve Utah's water woes,” by Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), March 16, 2015

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