September 1996 -- Dry conditions persisted in parts of the Southwest in September.
Of the 172 key index stations across the country, 11 percent were below
average and 54 percent were above average. Flow of the three largest
rivers in the lower 48 states, Mississippi, St. Lawrence and Columbia, was 6
percent above the long-term average for September and decreased seasonally 24
percent from August. Checking reservoir contents across the country, storage
contents were below average at 9 of the 84 sites reporting. Contents were
in the above-average range at 42 sites.
In looking back at September water conditions over the years, the following
selected years showed dry conditions in the Southwest. As in the previous
months where the focus has been on drought conditions in the Southwest, we
have selected other years that show similar dry conditions (although not a
substantially dry year in the Southwest, September 1995 is included for
comparison with the previous year), culminating with the water year map for
1934, the driest year of the great "Dust Bowl" drought.
September 1995 -- A small pocket of dry conditions existed in southern
Arizona. Dry conditions were offset somewhat by heavy rain in the Tucson
area that pushed monthly precipitation to about 30 percent above the
September average. The Salt and Verde River System reservoirs were at about
42 percent of their usable storage capacity. Looking across the country,
dry conditions were prevalent throughout the Northeast and into the
mid-Atlantic region and the Ohio Valley.
September 1994 -- Drought conditions continued throughout most of the West,
although rainfall did moderate conditions in Arizona, the Great Basin and
southern Idaho. Of 49 streamflow index gaging stations in the Western
Region, 33 had flows in the below-normal range. Of those stations, 12 had
been below-normal flow for at least five consecutive months.
September 1983 -- Streamflows remained in the below-normal range in western
Texas and parts of adjacent states. In contrast, average daily and monthly
flows for September were the highest of historic record in parts of
California, Nevada and Utah. Storage contents of principal reservoirs
generally decreased during the month and were above long-term averages,
except in parts of Texas and Oklahoma. Flow of the Saline River near
Russell, Kansas, set a new record-low for September -- the lowest in 32
years of record.
September 1978 -- Below-normal streamflows persisted in several southwestern
states, with average September flows the lowest of record in parts of
Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. Flows were below the
normal range in the eastern part of Texas, from the Red River basin to the
Colorado River basin. Flow of the Saline River near Russell, Kansas, was
the lowest September of record -- the lowest in 27 years of record. In
southwestern Nebraska, the Republican River at monthend was reported to be
nearly dry from the Colorado-Nebraska state line downstream to Harlan County
September 1960 -- Drought conditions continued in the Southwest. The level of
Great Salt Lake in Utah reached a new monthly minimum for the period of
record that began in 1851. Flow of the Colorado River near the Grand Canyon
was about 55 percent below the monthly average. Storage in all major
reservoirs in Arizona decreased and the San Carlos Reservoir contained
almost no usable storage. In neighboring New Mexico, combined storage of
the Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs was 45 percent below average.
September 1956 -- Drought continued to intensify in the southern mid-continent
area and in the Southwest. At 8 of the 11 key streamflow gaging stations in
the Colorado River basin, runoff was at a record low for September.
Shortages of water were reported in many areas, particularly in Texas. Flow
of the Arkansas River below Fort Smith in Arkansas was the lowest for
September since 1934. In Oklahoma, streamflow was the lowest of record in
practically all of the state. Total conservation storage in major
reservoirs in Texas decreased and was about 42 percent of usable capacity.
September 1948 -- Streamflow throughout the Southwest was extremely low, as
well as in other sections of the country. The drought caused local
shortages in water supplies and made it necessary for large drawdowns on
storage reservoirs to generate power. Flow of the Neches and Guadalupe
rivers in Texas was the lowest for September since 1939. Record-low flow
was recorded at three key gaging stations in Arizona. In central Arizona,
the state's most important water-using area, several streams set new
record-low flows for the month. The Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico again
reported below-normal storage reserves in reservoirs, which presented a
continuing, serious problem in irrigated areas.
Water Year 1934 -- At one of the driest points in the Dust Bowl era drought,
nearly the entire country was experiencing streamflows in the below-normal
range (within the lowest 25 percent of historic record). In the Southwest,
91 percent of the region was affected by low streamflows. The drought of
1931-39 was possibly the most intense and damaging in the history of the
continent and hardly any place in the United States escaped its effects one
or more times in this period.