At the end of May, the weekly federal Drought Monitor indicated that 98 percent of New Mexico was in “severe” drought, the worst conditions in the country.

Phil King, a hydrologist at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and water management consultant to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, says the Rio Grande through Las Cruces has been dry since last autumn. He says the district, which provides Rio Grande water to all of southern New Mexico's farmers, normally starts irrigation deliveries in February or March.

King and other water officials say rain is the only solution to the water crisis across the Southwest, and while a few rain showers dropped moisture over the weekend to parts of Southern New Mexico, the situation remains critical. The summer forecast is calling for little rain, so conditions will "likely worsen before they get better," causing some Southwest faithful to schedule special ceremonies asking for divine intervention.

Last week a coalition of church congregations in southern New Mexico staged a "Day of Prayer" for moisture and rain, and, along an irrigation canal in Bernalillo, near Albuquerque, a small group of churchgoers gathered to recite prayers with their rosaries in hand, a tradition that stretches back to the days of the occupying Spaniards.

It's not the only show of "faith support" calling for the end of the drought. Last month a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish "faithful" gathered for a special worship service in Oklahoma City that offered prayers to end drought conditions and bring about the return of rain. And in Lubbock two weeks ago, a Catholic bishop scheduled a special Mass at a local farm to bless seeds and soil in hopes of a productive crop year.

Weather forecasters say with dry summer conditions ahead, there may be little chance of any substantial rain in the near future "without a miracle." With such a dire forecast as that, some are saying it is no wonder that organized religion is experiencing renewed interest in the weather.


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