New Mexico’s water outlook threatens out of doors actions

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM — The ongoing drought in New Mexico increases the risk of fire. But it also does something else.

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

The fire threat is at its highest level in decades and many of the state’s forests are now closed.

“We are in the middle of 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 pretty shallow and that’s going to affect our access to recreational activities.”

An outlook from the Climate Prediction Center says the summer of 2022 will 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 major reservoirs are the state’s major recreational destinations. But the reservoirs are used for water supply. Now those are all running low, the piers are dry, it’s harder to get in the water, and the fish are concentrating or dying due to the extreme heat we’re getting. So every aspect of water-based recreation is negatively impacted.

Mangum says La Niña is responsible for the dismal winter snows.

“We’re getting a lot less precipitation in our northern mountain ranges and a lot lower snowpack, a lot drier conditions, and that puts us a step behind on the water budget for the year,” Magnum said.

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

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

“We need wet patterns that last a few years. To really get our rivers back to the surface, we need to get out of the La Niña pattern for the winter, we need big, heavy snowpacks. That’s a big player in this state.”

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

And before you set off on your recovery plans this summer, do your research before you go. Find out about all the restrictions and closures out there to keep you as safe as possible.