An Exceptional Drought
Above: High-resolution satellite imagery showing Elephant Butte Reservoir, near Truth or Consequences, N.M. on July 8, 2013. Move your cursor over the image above to see the reservoir when it was about 89 percent capacity on June 2, 1994. (Images: NASA Earth Observatory)
Status of New Mexico drought on Jun. 25, 2013. Progressively darker shading corresponds to worse drought. Darkest brown indicates exceptional drought, the worst category. (Image: NOAA/USDA/NDMC)
In late spring and early summer, the outlook was dire in New Mexico.
By late May, Albuquerque had set its record driest two-year period dating to the 1890s.
In late June, almost 45 percent of the state had slipped into exceptional drought, the worst drought category in the weekly Drought Monitor analysis. This was the most exceptional drought coverage of any state at the time.
Concern grew over low water levels in the Rio Grande, which roughly splits New Mexico in half, due to the lack of spring snowmelt. Reservoirs were running low, opening up the possibility of water coming solely from wells, instead of the river, in the Albuquerque metro area.
Elephant Butte Reservoir, shown in the images above, had shrunk to only 3 percent capacity by late July, the lowest levels there since 1972, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This reservoir supplies drinking water for nearly half of the population of El Paso, Texas.
Then, the rain arrived.
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