Summer monsoon most beneficial to Ariz. in years

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- This summer monsoon was the most beneficial Arizona has had in two years, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

A warmer, wetter-than-average monsoon has significantly reduced the amount of drought seen throughout the state.

At the start of July, all of Arizona was under some sort of drought classification. Now, parts of central Arizona are drought-free, and severe drought has dropped from nearly 75 percent of the state to just 41 percent. The most significant gains were made in southwest and southeast Arizona, as well as the higher elevations to the north.

In the Valley, the east and southeast areas gained the best above-average rainfall. Parts of the west and northwest Valley came in slightly below average.

“A lot of people will turn off their sprinkler systems because you have had so much water in the past couple months. You can save a little water by turning off the sprinklers for a while,” said Mark O’Malley, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

Another drought report coming out later in the week should show continued improvement for Arizona, according to O’Malley.

However, O’Malley said the summer monsoon rains will only help crops and landscaping in the short term. He said the larger drought picture will not emerge until the winter monsoon.

“That's just temporary,” O’Malley said of the summer water gains. “It is a desert. It will dry out again and we'll probably go a couple months now without rain before we get to the winter season.”

O’Malley said the winter monsoon is where the moisture really counts.

“Rainfall in thunderstorms is beneficial but really it's the snowfall in the winter that refills the reservoirs," he says.

The bulk of the Valley’s water supply arrives via reservoirs refilled by snow melt coming off Four Peaks and other high elevation areas to the northeast of the Valley. 

However, O’Malley cautions it’s too early to know if the winter monsoon will deliver the soaking the summer gave Arizona.

“At this point we're not expecting an El Nino or La Nina this winter so it's very difficult to say whether we'll have a below average or above average precipitation this winter. So stay tuned,” he said.