Western states continue to suffer from persistent drought

States in the American West experienced record low temperatures and persistent drought during the second quarter of 2013, according to government data released in advance of the Western Governors Association (WGA) meeting in Utah.

“Last year’s drought covered two‐thirds of the US at its height, but has since receded from the East and remained severe across much of the West,” according to a summary released this month.

“The spring brought improvement to eastern Wyoming and Colorado, as well as southeastern Montana,” according to the report generated through the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). NIDIS is currently up for reauthorization in both the U.S. Senate and House (S. 376 and H.R. 2431, respectively).

WGA has expressed support of the reauthorization of the drought information through written testimony to Congress.

The latest summary uses information from government sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The recent report evaluates data from March 1 through May 31.

Weather affects many facets of electric generation, from demand to the water supplies available for hydroelectric power and power plant cooling.

A cool and wet spring in the Northern Plains led to above-average snowfall there. Meanwhile a warm and dry spring caused drought conditions to expand westward as California had only 29% of its average precipitation from January through May.

Elsewhere, snowmelt runoff in the Colorado River Basin was 42% of normal, leading to predictions for Lake Powell to drop 30 feet in the next year, according to the report. The drought was “particularly devastating in New Mexico,” where three of the four largest reservoirs are at “less than 15% of storage capacity,” according to the report.

Looking toward summer, drought is likely to continue with some improvement in Arizona, southern Nevada, southern Utah and western New Mexico.

Many areas will also continue to see significant wildfire potential in August and September. But the fire potential is expected to dim over the Four Corners area after the onset of monsoon season.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.