Published March 1, 2003 | March 2003 issue
Montana is entering its fifth year of drought, made even more serious by low snow levels this winter. The U.S. Drought Monitor map showed the entire southern third of Montana in "extreme" drought at the end of last year, and near-record low snowpacks throughout Montana could put the state in a "survival mode by summer," according to the federal government's statewide water supply specialist. Areas that escaped the worst of the drought last year can expect drought development, largely in the north-central part of the state east from Havre to the North Dakota border.
The snowpack in some river basins is at record or near-record lows. For example, the Flathead River basin was 59 percent of averagethe third lowest on recordand only 69 percent of last year, and the Upper Clark Fork basin was 57 percent of average, its second lowest on record. Even with normal moisture and runoff conditions through spring and into July, water levels are predicted to be between 49 percent and 63 percent of normal statewide.