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Topic: Water     Department: Current

The year in water

Infographic/Photo Essay - May 16, 2011 by Cally Carswell

La Niña ruled the West's weather this winter, and states now sitting on lavish snowpacks couldn't be happier. Cooler surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are responsible for the high precipitation rates in California, the Northwest and Intermountain West. Those snowpacks are expected to melt at a leisurely rate, buoying streamflows throughout the summer. The Southwest wasn't so lucky: In La Niña years, that area experiences hotter, drier weather. And West-wide, the long-term forecast remains sobering. One banner water year isn't enough to end the decade-long drought. And a new report from the Interior Department warns that Western water supplies will be increasingly squeezed as the world warms; it predicts that spring runoff in the region could decline up to 20 percent by the end of the century.

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