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Securing Arizona's Water Future

 

Governor's Drought Interagency Coordinating Group

The Interagency Coordinating Group (ICG) is an advisory body to the governor on Arizona drought issues. Comprised of state, federal and non-governmental organizations, this group meets twice a year to evaluate drought conditions and consider recommendations to the governor. The Drought Emergency Declaration (PCA 99006) has been in effect since June 1999 and the Drought Declaration for the State of Arizona (Executive Order 2007-10) has been in effect since May 2007. The November 16, 2016 letter to the Governor recommends that both declarations be kept in place.

   The next ICG meeting will be in May 9, 2017

November 2016 Meeting

Agenda - November 16, 2016

Meeting Summary

Due to the relatively dry winter and localized summer rainfall, the end of the water year (October 31,2016) short-term drought is worse than a year ago in the southwestern quarter of the state, but better than a year ago in the northwestern quarter. In addition, there were no long-term improvements in drought conditions within any of the watersheds in Arizona, and three watersheds that were not in drought became abnormally dry.

Reservoirs for the Salt and Verde Watersheds continue to hover around 50% of capacity and the additional groundwater pumped during the drought has not been recharged. Additionally, moisture deficit is not currently increasing, but it has not recovered from the drought, so long-term conditions are still poor. Due to such conditions, every county, besides Coconino, had a United States Department of Agriculture disaster designation due to the impacts of drought this water year.

The Colorado River Basin System is experiencing a 17-year drought, which is the driest period in historical record dating back to 1906. In June 2016, Lake Mead levels dropped to 1,071 feet, which is below the first shortage trigger, set at 1,075 feet. Due to water conservation efforts by multiple entities, water levels increased in October, 2016, to 1,076 feet, right above the shortage trigger, and Reclamation’s projection of a Lower Colorado River Basin shortage in 2017 decreased from 37% to 0%. However, the chance of a shortage declaration in 2018 is still very likely and hovers at 48%. As of November 1, 2016, the entire System’s reservoir capacity was at 50%.

As a response to the long-term drought conditions on the Colorado River Basin and the looming shortages for the Lower Basin states, representatives of the three states and Reclamation developed a Drought Contingency Proposal (DCP) in December 2015 to conserve water levels in lake mead. Under the DCP, Arizona and Nevada would begin reducing water deliveries earlier than previously agreed. Reclamation would also agree to conserve water in the system. Additionally, California would agree for the first time to reduce its deliveries when Lake Mead elevations are below 1050 feet.

2016 wildfire season in was very similar to what was expected based on a ten-year average; Arizona experienced higher number of fires (2,197) than the 10-year average (2,144), however current acres burned (303,057) are lower than the 10-year average (317,781). Looking ahead to 2017, the state still experiences similar wildfires hazards: continuation of drought, fine fuel conditions, highly variable seasonal temperatures and low precipitation. These conditions suggest a similar wildfire season for 2017. However, the threat of catastrophic wildfire remains and Arizonans are urged to exercise extreme caution.

The most likely weather outcome for this winter is weak La Niña conditions developing during the late fall and early winter (around a 70% chance) and becoming neutral in late winter. Odds are shifted towards a warmer and drier than normal winter based on a combination of La Niña, model output, and trends over the past 10-15 years. The Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for July-September 2017 shows somewhat better chances that the average temperature during these three months will be above normal statewide, but there is no precipitation signal.

 

Recommendation

Based on this information, the ICG unanimously recommended 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 famers 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.

Webinar (including all presentations)

 

Presentations

November 2016 Recomendation Letter to the Governor

 

 

Interagency Coordinating Group Fact Sheet

Interagency Coordinating Group Membership

Arizona Drought Assistance Matrix

Previous Meetings

 

Disaster Designations

A disaster designation by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes farmers and ranchers in both primary and contiguous disaster areas eligible to be considered for federal low-interest emergency loans and other forms of assistance. For a list of current counties with disaster designations, visit the USDA Farm Service Agency website. For information about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, contact the county Farm Service Agency offices or the Arizona State Farm Service Agency.


 
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