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Ensuring Arizona counties are drought ready
Published August 30, 2007
Despite spectacular summer monsoon downpours, drought continues to loom over Arizona and the Southwest. This is the case especially where water year precipitation has been below average (see page 7–current precipitation), such as the western half of Arizona, or parts of northeastern New Mexico. And, as mentioned on page 11 (AZ Reservoirs), Colorado River Basin storage is still well below average. Your input is needed to monitor and help determine how your county will prepare for and lessen the impacts of drought.
“Providing local input on drought conditions is important so that state-level drought monitoring and reporting activities can be verified against actual on-theground observations,” said Herb Guenther, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Remarkably, garnering drought impact information from newspaper reports is the national method for reporting drought impacts, aside from a few well-observed parameters, such as streamflow and reservoir level.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Statewide Drought Program, in conjunction with Arizona Cooperative Extension and county emergency management, is convening Local Drought Impact Groups (LDIGs) in all counties across Arizona. Coordinated by local representatives, LDIGs are voluntary groups created to raise drought public awareness, provide impact information to local and state leaders, and initiate local mitigation and response measures.
As residents of the Southwest and northern Mexico have seen during the last ten years, drought can affect farms and ranches, forests and other vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife, and hydrology and water resources. Local monitoring of these types of impacts will be used for the LDIGs’ drought planning and preparedness efforts. Moreover, local drought impact reports, provided to Arizona’s Drought Monitoring Technical Committee (MTC), are used to improve the depiction of state and national drought status and verify drought monitoring and drought predictions. A brief summary of LDIG impact reports can be found in the monthly MTC drought status reports on the Statewide Drought Program website (http://www.azwater.gov/dwr/drought/MTC.html).
Professionals and ordinary citizens alike can support the LDIGs’ efforts by providing monthly feedback on drought conditions throughout their county. The LDIGs and MTC seek regular observations (e.g., monthly or quarterly) of qualitative, information on:
- Agricultural conditions (such as crop damage or the need to develop supplemental water sources);
- Livestock production (such as the need to haul water, or increased mortality);
- Aquatic impacts (such as loss of fish due to decreased flows);
- Wildlife (such as drought-related habitat degredation or lack of food and drinking water);
- Plants and vegetation (such as tree mortality, poor leaf condition, stress); and
- Water resources (such as deepening of wells or reduced flow from springs).
Submitting feedback online takes just a couple of minutes a month, and observations can be made while on the job or on a hike.
Arizona’s online drought impacts reporting system (DIRS) can be accessed through the Arizona Flood Warning and Drought Monitoring website (http://data.afws.org/sui/DroughtImpacts.aspx). The DIRS is being revised to make it easier to use; the improved DIRS, expected to be completed by January 2008, will link Arizona information with the U.S. Drought Impact Reporter (http://droughtreporter.unl.edu/), which was developed by the National Drought Mitigation Center to collect, quantify, and map reported drought impacts nationally.
In addition to monitoring local impacts, LDIGs provide other opportunities for citizen participation, assist with education and outreach efforts, and recommend actions for drought mitigation and response. Arizona’s LDIGs are a unique innovation in improving drought preparedness and monitoring, and they provide a great opportunity for citizens to participate in directing drought preparedness and education in their region.
For more information on LDIGs, please visit http://www.azwater.gov/dwr/drought/LDIG.html. To sign up for an LDIG, please contact your local Arizona Cooperative Extension agent (http://cals.arizona.edu/extension/directory/index.html).