The following reports formed the basis of the ICG's recommendation to maintain both drought declarations (Drought Emergency PCA 99006 & Drought Declaration Executive Order 2007-10):
The State Drought Monitoring Technical Committee’s update showed that long-term drought conditions are much worse than they have been in recent years. During the water year, precipitation was below 70% of average for most of the state. Nearly half of the state is currently in severe drought.
The Arizona State Forestry Division, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Arizona Game & Fish Department provided their annual updates on forest and rangeland health and impacts to wildlife, which showed the following:
- Many parts of the state are still suffering from long-term precipitation deficits, which affect vegetation health, wildlife and livestock, water supplies (low-producing springs, surface water flows and well production), and range and pasture conditions.
- 216,818 acres of wildland fire burned in 2009, the most acres burned since 2005. Lack of regenerative fires and long-term drought are considered major factors in the decline of aspen trees, especially those stands growing at the lower elevations (see 2009 Forest Health Condition Highlights for more information).
- Impacts due to long-term drought are resulting in crop losses, irrigation water shortages, livestock water and forage shortages and water hauling.
- Wildlife habitat is still in poor condition after many years of drought.
Reports were provided by the Salt River Project (SRP) on the Salt and Verde watersheds, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) on the Colorado River Basin, and the State Drought Monitoring Technical Committee on climate conditions. A few of the main points are described below and form the basis of the ICG’s recommendation:
- Although the Verde and Salt reservoir systems are nearly full, the Colorado reservoir system, which provides 40% of Arizona’s water supply, is still well below its average level.
- Data show abnormally dry to moderate long-term drought conditions across the state.
- Precipitation totals have been below normal:
- In Prescott - 13 of the past 14 years
- In Springerville - eight of the past 14 years
- In Flagstaff - 11 of the past 14 years
- In Phoenix and Tucson - 12 of the past 14 years
- Winter precipitation amounts have been well below average statewide.
- In comparison to last year, drought status in a few watersheds has improved; however, precipitation over the last four years has generally been below average for most of Arizona’s watersheds.
The group decided during last year’s spring meeting that Arizona would need at least three consecutive wet winters to consider discontinuing the drought declarations, and unfortunately that did not occur. The updates confirmed that although winter precipitation looked good at the beginning of the season, the winter of 2008 - 2009 turned out to be drier than average. Based on this information, the ICG made a unanimous decision to recommend that both drought declarations be kept in place:
- Drought Emergency Declaration (PCA 99006) has been in effect since June 1999 and maintains the state’s ability to provide emergency response if needed. It also enables farmers and ranchers to obtain funding assistance through the Farm Service Agency if they experience production losses due to drought.
- The Drought Declaration for the State of Arizona (Executive Order 2007-10) was issued in May 2007 to raise awareness of Arizona’s continuing long-term drought and encourage conservation.