Our weather, in the foothills of the greener Eastern Slope of the Sandia Range of the Southern Rockies, can be pretty particular. Driving home from Santa Fe on the beautiful Turquoise Trail last night we passed through a few brief and widely spaced rain squalls, and saw places that had had recent soakers. Even as we got closer to home, we saw definitely wet shoulders and puddles, but our little neighborhood seemingly got not a drop.
But, heck, we’ve seen it rain on the front deck and leave the back patio dry, and we’re talking about a separation of about 30 feet.
Still, when my wife Amy and I talk about our weather of Winter and Spring 2019, we smile, because the three words for those seasons on all sides of our house are cold, wet, and prolonged. We had one huge snow around New Years, but we also had a bunch of smaller ones and when it warmed up, a nice bit of rain, and then – this is what I meant by prolonged…in early- and mid-May we had a series of two to eight inches of snows. Higher up, in the mountains, the accumulations were bigger.
Want a bottom line? In its recent measurement, the water in our well had risen by five feet since the fall.
Across the American Southwest, from Colorado and New Mexico to California some places were colder than cold and others less, some were wetter than others and some got more late snowfall than others, but by every measure, the overall weather – colder, wetter and wintry longer than the historic averages – was, when it comes to water – in a word – restorative.
But as we all experience, weather is here today and gone tomorrow, even patterns or cycles of weather come and go, wet years/dry years, but the map of where weather has been and where it’s likely to go is called climate.
What almost everyone in the Southwest says has been a “good,” restorative, winter/spring of 2019, is actually just a recognizable part of a well-defined pattern of weather cycles defining climate change as the road to “aridification,” the long-term heating and drying of our region.
One label for the stage on which this climate tragedy is being played out is The Southwest, but when it comes to water, a more useful term for virtually the same hunk of real estate is the Colorado River Basin.
John Fleck is Professor of Practice in Water Policy and Governance and Director, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico, author of Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths of Water in the West, and co-author with Eric Kuhn of the soon-to-be published Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River.