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Southwest Drought Briefing: August 22, 2023

Event Date
August 22, 2023
Event Time
1:00 pm - 1:35 pm

While the Southwest saw record-setting snowpack in the winter of 2023, the Monsoon season has been nearly non-existent. As a result, short-term drought has increased in New Mexico, and long-term drought conditions persisted in Arizona and Nevada. Recently, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hilary provided some much needed relief for western states, though the heavy precipitation created flooding issues for the higher elevations. New Mexico did not benefit from that system and is degrading in drought status statewide. As the region transitions to fall, a continued El Niño signal and higher-than-average temperatures persist, and drought conditions are expected to worsen. This webinar looked at current and forecasted drought conditions for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, with a special presentation on the Current Conditions and Projected Operations in the Lower Colorado River Basin.

For more information, please contact Gretel Follingstad (


Welcome to the Southwest Drought Briefing 

Speaker: Joel Lisonbee | NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

  • Welcome to the August 2023 Southwest Drought Briefing.
  • Learn more about the Southwest Drought Learning Network
  • View past webinar recordings at
  • Introducing the speakers: 
    • Erinanne Saffell, Arizona State Climatologist; Director, Arizona State Climate Office.
    • Shana G. Tighi, Hydrologist, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.



Current Conditions and Drought Outlook 

Speaker: Erianne Saffell | Arizona State Climatologist; Director, Arizona State Climate Office

  • July brought record-breaking heat to the Four Corners states.
  • Water year precipitation remains above average to date for California, Nevada, and Utah.
  • Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hilary contributed up to 800% of normal precipitation to southern California and Nevada.



Current Conditions and Projected Operations in the Lower Colorado River Basin

Speaker: Shana G. Tighi, Hydrologist, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Basin Region

  • Wet conditions in the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins for Water Year 2023 improved reservoir conditions.
  • Lake Powell will operate Water Year 2024 in the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release of 7.48 million-acre feet.
  • Lake Mead will operate Calendar Year 2024 in a Level 1 Shortage Condition with water savings contributions under the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan and Minute 323 Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan (BWSCP).
  • Much uncertainty remains regarding future conditions.
  • Experimental monsoon season forecasts indicate potential to improve operational projections in the Lower Colorado Basin.



Questions & Answers

Speaker: Gretel Follingstad | Intermountain West DEWS Coordinator, NOAA/NIDIS, CU Boulder/CIRES