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Arizona closing in on two decades of drought

PHOENIX -- Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny said the state has been in varying degrees of drought since 1997, but Arizona isn't close to an extended water shortage yet.

"Normal droughts in the past century spanned about 20 years," he said.

But the state has been through mega droughts before. Some lasted more than a century and there's no guarantee that we're not in the early stages of another mega drought.

"Whether this drought will be incredibly long remains to be seen," Cerveny said. "We can't see that far into the future. A long-term drought contributed to the fall of the early Native Americans civilizations in Arizona in the 1300s and 1500s."

Another concern to Cerveny is Arizona's continued population growth.

"That puts even greater demand on what rain and snowfall we do get," he said. "Simply, we have so many more people and that water can only be stretched so far."

Complicating the drought is the fact that Phoenix's only winter rainfall came on March 1.

"That storm helped," said Cerveny. "If we hadn't received that storm we'd be in desperate shape. We went for 70 days without rain until then."

The National Weather Service said if Phoenix doesn't receive another drop of rain this winter, this will be the 26th driest winter in Valley history.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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