Here’s Part I from Marty Shellabarger writing for The Crestone Eagle. Click through for the whole article and cool photo slideshow. Here’s an excerpt:
Diverting water from natural flood plains meant more water consumption and evaporation. Perennial San Luis Creek marshlands dried out somewhat, creating more harvestable grass meadows. Once, Saguache County had the highest US workforce percentage producing grass hay, abundantly exported after railroads came in the 1890s. Moffat, the major shipping station for cattle in these parts, had numerous corrals holding thousands of cows. In the silver-boom years just after 1900, Moffat was even a candidate for capitol of Colorado.
Mountain reservoirs maintaining year-round livestock was status quo here for 90 years … until center-pivot sprinkler irrigation in the 1960s utilized our second great reservoir, the aquifers. That—along with large-bore water drilling, new pumps and the electricity to power them—would begin to change everything in our valley.
More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.