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New Mexico makes drought official

There's no question it's dry in New Mexico. Many argue that's an understatement, including Gov. Susana Martinez.
Image: A highway sign and a retail sign detail the current drought and extreme temperatures currently plaguing the southwest U.S.  in Fort Worth
Droughts this year in parts of the U.S. follow last summer's extended drought in Texas and heat waves elsewhere. This view was from Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 5, 2011.Mike Stone / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

There's no question it's dry in New Mexico. Many argue that's an understatement, including Gov. Susana Martinez.

The governor on Tuesday issued a drought declaration covering all of New Mexico, confirming what farmers, ranchers and municipal water utility managers already know.

"Fire danger is high, water reservoirs run low and in some cases, we've seen towns like Las Vegas take dramatic steps to reduce basic water consumption in their residents' homes and businesses," Martinez said in a statement.

Much of the state suffered from drought last year, with back-to-back dry winters sandwiching a windy spring and a summer in which monsoons never materialized. This year, maps by federal forecasters show all off New Mexico is experiencing some form of drought, from abnormally dry to the worse case of exceptional.

New Mexico is not alone. Neighboring Arizona and even eastern states such as Massachusetts, Delaware and Connecticut are among a growing group of states that have had their entire landscapes enveloped by drought.

From declarations to water conservation measures, states are looking for ways to respond to the dry conditions marching across the U.S. this year.

Nevada officials have updated their state drought response plan following one of the driest winters in recent Nevada history.

And after one of the driest, warmest winters on record, South Carolina in April added another county to the list of those where drought conditions are considered severe.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry last month renewed a proclamation declaring Texas a disaster due to the drought. Texas endured the worst-single year drought in its history through last summer, and a relatively wet winter has been followed by little rainfall statewide in recent weeks.

Martinez's declaration will make it easier for farmers, ranchers and communities to secure federal funding for expenses related to the drought.

With the declaration, the New Mexico Drought Task Force will be convened. The panel will look at ways the state can prepare for and mitigate the problems that occur due to persistent drought conditions.

Martinez also ordered the state's drought plan to be reviewed, and she urged municipalities to consider implementing firework bans and other fire restrictions.

Martinez said her executive order that New Mexico has suffered through numerous natural disasters associated with the drought, including the largest fire in the state's recorded history, flooding that resulted from denude mountain sides and crop losses.

State officials said it will take considerable precipitation and snowmelt runoff to return soil moisture and vegetation health to reasonable levels.

Disasters related to drought have been declared by the federal government in various New Mexico counties in recent years, but the last time a statewide declaration was issued was the summer of 2009.

In the northern New Mexico community of Las Vegas, officials are facing another year of water shortages. The governor's office said Tuesday that the state water trust board has provided $600,000 to the city for engineering work related to repairs on a dam the community depends on for its water supply.