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Desert Diary
Climate/River Drought


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New Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas have been in the grip of a river drought for years now. What's a river drought and who cares? Isn't just plain drought sufficient? Ah, but by most standards, the Chihuahuan Desert is in permanent drought, with under 10 inches of precipitation. As a result, we've come to live with just plain drought. River drought is a horse of different color, though. Farmers in most of North America watch the skies closely, for their living depends on the weather. But inhabitants of the Rio Grande and Pecos River valleys look not locally, but to the weather hundreds of miles away.

These areas depend on water for agriculture, manufacturing, and even for drinking on water originating upstream in the highlands of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. When the winter snows of those mountainous areas fall short, it's the people downstream who suffer. There's an old saying about the Rio Grande being a mile wide and an inch deep. In times of river drought, many a desert dweller would settle for just that.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.