/ Modified jan 25, 2016 5:26 a.m.

Southern Arizona 'Drought-Free' for First Time in Five Years

Monsoon, El Niño bring plenty of moisture, but not enough to end being water smart.

Rain, Monsoon, Storm Intersection spot Heavy rainfall from a monsoon storm floods an intersection in east Tucson. (PHOTO: AZPM Staff)

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The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties are drought-free for the first time since November 2010.

It also shows 16 percent of Arizona is in drought status, and that portion is considered in "moderate drought."

National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Drozd said a strong monsoon and storms caused by a strong El Niño weather pattern have helped.

But, in the desert Southwest, drought can come back just as quickly as it went away, Drozd said.

“Getting a lot [of rain] can tilt us back to the positive side," he said. "But several months of dry weather in a row where we don’t get any rain at all, which we know can happen, that then can also start deteriorating our drought categories fairly quickly as well.”

Drozd said wet conditions have been the exception and not the rule in recent years, so residents should remain aware of their water use even during times of heavy precipitation.

And, while areas officially considered in a drought have lessened around the state, it does not mean the area is completely free of water worries.

More than half of Arizona is still classified as "abnormally dry" by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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