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Weather Wise: Drought Outlook

Weather Wise: Drought Outlook
Posted at 7:13 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 21:13:50-04

The Governor's Drought Advisory Board meets this week to evaluate the water supply status here in the state.

Drought has taken over most of the state and has worsened since the start of the year.

An old proverb states: “You never know the true value of water until the well runs dry.” Water is essential to Montana business, agriculture, recreation, and life in general. And because much of Montana is almost technically a desert, precipitation is of high value.

Currently, almost two-thirds of the state is in some level of drought. Nearly 90% of the state is drier than normal. Last year at this time, only 10% was drier than normal.

The drought is worst over Northeast Montana, where 14% of the state is under extreme drought. with extreme drought status, some crops are unharvestable.

Producers may have to haul water and buy expensive supplemental feed. Cattle have very limited natural water, and water quality can be bad. That means agriculture and local businesses face economic loss.

Up until recently, Glasgow had the driest start to a calendar year ever.

Mountain snowpack is less than desirable and certainly below average for many of the state's water basins. Mountain snowpack is that "money in the bank" that gets spent in the hot summer months.

Although the state is not in the best place with regard to water supply, there is some cause to be optimistic. A recent 30-day outlook from the climate prediction center has some of Montana with a chance at above-average precipitation.

In the near future, a significant storm should bring healthy rain and snow to the state this coming weekend, and the storm pattern will remain active through the middle of May.

Many areas in Central and Western Montana are just about one good storm below-average precipitation.