ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While western states like California and Nevada recently got soaked, New Mexico hasn’t seen nearly as much rain. And, in fact, most of the state remains ‘abnormally dry’ or in drought.

As of the second week of January, about 91% of New Mexico was at least drier than normal, according to the U.S Drought Monitor. That’s slightly better than several months ago, but it suggests we still need more moisture to come out of last year’s drought.

“After one of the worst fire seasons on record in the state, it changed quickly to one of the best monsoon seasons we’ve had,” says KRQE News 13 Chief Meteorologist Grant Tosterud. “However, one part of the state that struggled during the monsoon was eastern New Mexico.”

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The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that much of NM remains dry. | The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

On top of low precipitation in Eastern New Mexico, many mountain basins – i.e. regions sharing a single watershed – have less snow than usual. The Pecos Headwaters in north-central New Mexico is only at about 72% of its average snow water equivalent. That means the amount of water contained in the snow resting on the mountains is currently lower than the average from 1991 to 2020.

The same is true for the Upper Rio Grande, the Jemez, the Canadian Headwaters, the Upper Gila, the San Francisco and the Mimbres. These New Mexico basins are all experiencing less than average snow water, according to the latest reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s snow reports.

The Rio Hondo basin, near Roswell, is particularly dry, at only 13% of its average for this time of year. But mountains in the northwest part of the state are currently above average in terms of snow water equivalent.

“It’s really a tale of two halves. Even this winter, eastern New Mexico continues to struggle with moisture while the western half of the state is sitting at near to above average snowpack,” Tosterud says.

“While the monsoon put a big dent in the drought, it’s only a Band-Aid. What we need is a good snowpack to keep the drought away and keep our rivers flowing. For parts of New Mexico, that may be the case this winter,” Tosterud says. “For the eastern half of New Mexico though, that doesn’t appear to be happening so far.”

“The big concern heading into spring is once again going to be the fire season. Especially after all the new growth from the monsoon’s rains and then that growth drying out this winter with below-average snowpack. That could be a dangerous recipe heading into spring,” Tosterud adds.