The NDMC added 54 impacts to the Drought Impact Reporter during December as drought intensified in California and other areas of the U.S. and eased in the Northeast and southern Great Plains. Texas had 23 impacts, documenting numerous fire and water restrictions. Colorado and Oregon trailed with 5 impacts apiece as drought responses were undertaken.
Texas drought restrictions; winter wheat, pastures needed rain
Although some parts of Texas received abundant rainfall in December, other parts of the state, such as Far West Texas, the Panhandle and South Texas, were very dry, leading to restrictions on outdoor burning, fireworks and water use. In western Texas, the backcountry area around Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park was closed from Dec. 20 through Jan. 4, due to continued drought, per National Parks Traveler. Resource damage and illegal fire violations were occurring at backcountry sites, prompting park authorities to close the area to backcountry camping.
Toward the latter part of December, water restrictions were newly introduced in Burnet County and Corpus Christi, as reported in DailyTrib.com and Corpus Christi Business News, as groundwater levels fell and lakes and reservoirs became depleted.
In many parts of the Lone Star State, rain was needed for the emergence of winter wheat as some areas did not have adequate soil moisture for germination, according to AgriLife Today. Many livestock were receiving supplemental feed as pastures were dry and also in need of moisture.
Colorado’s Drought Plan fully activated
Persistent, intense drought in Colorado led Gov. Jared Polis to shift from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of its State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Municipal Water Impact Task Force will convene and coordinate with water providers to prepare for potential water challenges in 2021.
The agricultural portion of the plan was activated during the summer, requiring government agencies serving farmers and ranchers to start coordinating aid efforts, as noted in The Colorado Sun. Officials from several cities feared that the drought was severe enough to warrant hasty preparations for short water supplies in 2021.
While the Upper Colorado River Basin was at 70 percent of its normal snow water equivalent in mid-December, other locations in western Colorado were not faring as well, as reported by Summit Daily. The warm, dry autumn made it difficult for ski areas to open additional terrain with artificial or natural snow.
New Mexico water shortages
Persistent drought led New Mexico authorities to prepare for the continuation of drought into 2021. New Mexico state and local officials met virtually to discuss the ongoing drought and water shortages occurring and expected to continue into the next year, per Carlsbad Current Argus. Two poor monsoon seasons and a dry start to winter have left much of the state in exceptional drought with low water supplies.
In southeast New Mexico, the Carlsbad Irrigation District was unable to get its full allotment from Brantley Lake, leading the Interstate Stream Commission to continue to use augmentation pumps to make up the shortfall for the district.
Low initial water allocation in California
California experienced a dry fall and early winter, leading to the intensification of drought in November and December. Rainfall amounts across much of California since Oct. 1, the start of the water year, were mostly less than 50 percent of normal. With low precipitation, the California Department of Water Resources announced the initial water allocation of 10 percent for the State Water Project. While the initial allocation was low, the allocation last year was also 10 percent, but was increased to 20 percent in May 2020.
Maine Drought Task Force ended
Precipitation eased drought in Maine in recent months after an intense summer of drought. The Maine Drought Task Force met on Dec. 17 to review conditions, per Penobscot Bay Pilot. With drought easing across the state, the Task Force opted to close and reconvene in the spring of 2021 if conditions warrant.
Low hay availability in Maine after a summer of poor hay production led farmers to seek new strategies to protect hay condition. Various agricultural insurance policies and strategies for securing reliable hay were discussed during a virtual talk hosted by the University of Maine’s Department of Agriculture.
For more details, please visit the Drought Impact Reporter.