As a result, farmers are fearful of significant losses, livestock owners are scrambling to find feed, and municipalities are nervously checking their water resources.
The winter of 2017-18 was almost entirely lacking snow and, as a result, there is no significant run-off from the Abajo mountains. The Abajos provide the water shed for Monticello and Blanding.
“There is no runoff of any kind, absolutely zeros,” said Norman Johnson, of the San Juan Water Conservancy District.
Nate Langston, the director of Public Works for the City of Monticello, had a similar assessment, “We are getting a teeny bit of runoff,” said Langston. “But it is not even close to normal.”
Langston said the city has enough water reserves for the year but adds that it will get very uncomfortable if there is a second dry winter.
Langston said 2018 will be the first dry summer in Monticello since meters were installed on the secondary water system. Langston anticipates that the Monticello City Council will institute “drought rates” for secondary water, which will reward those who cut back dramatically on water use and cost those who use large amounts of water.
“There is still some white on the mountain,” said Langston. “I hope that some of that will come into our system.”
Ferd Johnson, of the Water Conservancy District, said there was no water coming into Dry Wash (it is well named this year).
Johnson said Johnson Creek is carrying about 300 gallons per minute and all of it is going to the City of Blanding.
Johnson said irrigators are using some of the stored water for a brief period this spring, but probably just enough “for one cutting of hay.”
The US Drought Monitor shows “Extreme” and “Exceptional” drought over the entirety of San Juan County. The map is updated each week and shows a steady deterioration of drought conditions over the previous eight months.
The U.S. has prepared a declaration of drought emergency for San Juan County. Impacted businesses are eligible to apply for federal disaster loans.
It is anticipated that fire restrictions will be put in place throughout the area in coming weeks.
Current predictions indicate that the drought conditions will extend or worsen throughout the summer.