The drought across the eastern Colorado plains is particularly acute in Baca County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’d take hail just for the moisture,” [joked one farmer].

The last steady rain was in August 2010, and there are broad consequences for a county that has seen more than its share of droughts. Agriculture will take the biggest hit, with 500,000 acres and thousands of cattle at risk. There have been nearly a dozen major fires, with a couple of homes destroyed…

One of the consequences of drought could be to close federal grazing leases on the Comanche grasslands, which will be evaluated according to the conditions on a case-by-case basis. The county commissioners are studying whether to ask for disaster relief, which could open Conservation Reserve Program ground to grazing…

Joe Rosengrants, 76, still helps his sons with farming, but his “hobby” is Sand Arroyo Energy, which markets wind turbines and solar panels. He decided he couldn’t beat the sun and wind, so joined them. While excavating the site of a wind charger recently, he found no sub-moisture 3 to 5 feet deep, where it normally would be encountered. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it any drier. It’s not as nasty as I’ve seen, but the farming methods have improved so much,” Rosengrants said. “We used to have storms where you couldn’t even see the hood ornament on your car, back when cars had hood ornaments.”[…]

Another major improvement came with high-production irrigation wells in the 1960s. “Most the wells are in the Ogallala Aquifer, which is dropping by about 2 feet per year,” said Commissioner Peter Dawson. It’s expensive to drill deeper, so some wells have been abandoned or farmers make do with less. “A well that was pumping 800 gallons per minute 30 years ago, might be just 150 to 200 gpm today. On the other hand, irrigation practices have improved so much.” At first, furrow irrigation was widely used, but more have switched to center pivots, with heads that drop closer to the ground. Some farmers are using drip irrigation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

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