In its first forecast for 2014, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water and Climate Center indicates lower-than-average streamflows across much of the West this spring.

The center monitors snowpack in 13 western states to provide information to agriculture, communities and other users on expected water supplies. Most of the region relies on spring snowmelt to fill reservoirs for much of the year’s water supply.

Conditions are especially severe in the westernmost region of the United States, and generally improve further east. The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows a large area of extreme drought covering most of California and northern Nevada and persistent, if mostly less severe, dry conditions across much of the western half of the United States.

An NRCS map of projected steamflows shows much of California and Nevada at less than 25 percent of normal. For areas along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, the map projects flows mostly near average.  

This is the first prediction of the year, and the rest of the winter could bring heavier snows to mountain regions. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center currently projects a milder and somewhat drier winter for much of the West. According to NRCS Meteorologist Jan Curtis there is a very small chance for normal precipitation on the West Coast.

Also, the most recent U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map, which projects drought trends through April 30, shows drought persisting or intensifying across much of the West, Southwest and Southern Plains.