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Feb 28, 2014 7:58 PM by John Patrick

Mt. Lemmon driest in 30 years

SUMMERHAVEN, Ariz. - Mount Lemmon Water District is experiencing the driest winter season in at least 30 years.

For those who haven't been to Mt. Lemmon yet this year, like winter visitor Ron Irion, it's a surprise to see how brown and dry it is.

"It was 29°, snow, wind and cold. Today it's quite different," explains Irion on his last trip up the mountain.

Michael Stanley with the Mount Lemmon Water District has been there for 30 years and has yet to see a winter this dry. He says this time year Upper Sabino Canyon, where Summerhaven's water storage tanks are located, normally has three to four feet of snow it.

"My level of concern is about a 7 or 8 because of the lack of precipitation we've had," says Stanley.

The springs that feed the water storage tanks will generally pump out 30 gallons of water an hour but today they are down to 18 gallons an hour, nearly 50% of normal for late February. Stanley says at this rate they may have to start rationing the water supply.

"Our first phase would be to ask the customers to conserve half of their water use," says Stanley.

This makes sure that there is at least 1 million gallons of water in reserve for the Mt. Lemmon Fire Department.

Randy Ogden, Chief of Mt. Lemmon Fire, says they have already seen two small wildfires along Catalina Highway so far this year.

Ogden explains, "The biggest concern for us right now is getting water into some of the areas that are off-road."

With a Winter Weather Advisory in effect for the Catalinas this weekend they are hoping for all the snow they can handle.

"Anything we can get is better than where we are right now. We are real concerned for the summer," says Ogden.

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