Much of New Mexico is in drought, but signs of water abound near Taos.
August is monsoon season in New Mexico, where bright morning skies give way to bulbous, anvil-topped thunderheads by late afternoon.
Here in Taos, a 45-minute drive south of Colorado, the clockwork rains nurture fields of showy goldeneye, lush mountain meadows, and cool streams.
Some 97 percent of New Mexico is in one of the four drought categories assigned by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Yet less than half the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, down significantly from early July when I reported on the serious lack of moisture here.
A healthy monsoon has alleviated some of the worst dry patches, but with Elephant Butte Reservoir, a main storage facility on the Rio Grande, at only 4 percent full, the water supply situation remains perilous. Even in Taos, with storms almost every day, the Rio Pueblo is running well below normal.
This weekend, I’ll be driving along the Rio Grande Valley to southern New Mexico, where Elephant Butte is located. The landscape there promises to be far different than the flower show in Taos.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton