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NWS: El Nino and monsoon improve drought conditions

Just over a year ago, over 75% of Arizona was in "severe drought". Now it's just 3%. Climate Expert Mark O'Malley says we can thank recent winters and monsoons for that. And while a strong El Nino should bring plenty rain & snow, but he says we still must be mindful of Arizona's water supply.

Powerful monsoons storms have had a big impact on Arizona's drought.

"The state of Arizona is not doing that bad right now with drought, this is the best we've been since 2010," said Mark O'Malley.

Mark O'Malley is a Climate Expert with the National Weather Service in Phoenix. He says AZ was in "severe drought" earlier this decade, but the picture now is much improved.

"The past couple of monsoon seasons have been very good for us, and that's allowed us to improve our drought condition," said O'Malley.

Phoenix now sits at a "moderate" drought level and cities like Douglas and Nogales are out of the drought entirely! But he says several good monsoons aren't enough to protect our water supply.

"Phoenix gets a lot of its water from the Salt and Verde Basin and Lake Roosevelt, and that's suffered somewhat over the past couple years where its only about 50 percent full right now," he said.

Reservoirs like Lake Mead and Lake Powell are also at pretty low levels; with neighboring states, fighting for water off the Colorado River. O'Malley says unless Colorado and Utah get significant snow in coming years, Arizona's water supply could be at risk.

"We are always susceptible to drought so just because we have rainfall doesn't mean we shouldn't continue conserving water at a state scale," said O'Malley.

This good news in all this is that we're supposed to have the strongest El Nino on record since 1950. Mark says 1997, 1998 was the last very strong El Nino winter that brought us a lot of rain and snow, and this winter is shaping up to look pretty similar.