Snow drought threatens west, senators call for Farm Bill action

A Wyoming snow scene -- this year is off to a rough start in terms of snow drought.
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January 12, 2024 — In its January 10 report, the US Drought MonitorOpens in a new tab. wrote that there were snow deficits in early January that affected some of the Colorado River Basin states, including Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Described as snow water equivalent (SWE), the Drought Monitor reported that Wyoming had the highest concentration of “record low SWE.”

In New Mexico, KRQU NewsOpens in a new tab. reported that although most of the state’s reservoirs have more water than last year, the state is off to a rough start. With precipitation less than 65% of normal, the state could continue to experience a statewide drought unless winter storms change the situation.

Senators Call for Farm Bill Action.

Concerns over a “snow drought” so far this year were voiced in a January 11 press releaseOpens in a new tab. published by California’s Sen. Alex Padilla. He and and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.), along with Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and a bipartisan group of 13 other Senate colleagues, called on U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry leaders to address long-term drought in the upcoming Farm Bill.

The U.S. senators warned that “As the American West continues to recover from a historic megadrought, it is critical that the Farm Bill prioritizes addressing long-term drought, including through tools to conserve water, improve watershed scale planning, upgrade water infrastructure, protect land from erosion, and create long-term resiliency on changing landscapes for growers in drought-affected regions. According to the first snow survey of the year, California remains in a historic snow drought — state officials found just 7.5 inches of snowpack where they measured five feet of snow just last year.”

“Agriculture is the economic backbone for rural communities in our states. However, severe, long-term drought is devastating these rural areas. During periods of droughts, our farmers and ranchers face diminishing crop and livestock outputs. These negative effects reverberate through the community, affecting not just individual producers, but the broader local economy and food system,” wrote the SenatorsOpens in a new tab..

Upcoming Snow Storms.

Taking a more optimistic view, the U.S. Drought MonitorOpens in a new tab. reported that storms over the next week will improve conditions in the Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, and northern Rockies, but are unlikely to completely erase existing deficits.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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