‘The issue becomes who’s got the most water and what priority…ag users’ — Kathleen Curry #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

Mount Sopris via the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
Mount Sopris via the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

The Bookcliff, Mount Sopris and South Side conservation districts host the annual event. This year’s theme was water in the Colorado River basin, with a message that increasing demand, limited supply and less water throughout the state could be devastating to agriculture. Issues included water rights protection, water shortages and the smart-, or mega-ditch, a water conservation method used on an irrigation ditch near Carbondale.

Curry and Meyer led a discussion about the state water plan, which has to be finalized in six months. Afterwards, Curry said she is worried.

“Between the shortage on the Front Range due to the growth that they’re facing, and then watching the levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead drop over the last couple of years, it hit me that we’re looking at not enough water to go around,” she told The Citizen Telegram.

Something will have to give, Curry added.

“The issue becomes who’s got the most water and what priority, and that always takes you back down the trail to the ag users,” she said…

Curry believes the long-term viability of Colorado agriculture is already at risk for a variety of reasons, and that the looming water gap could add to the pressure.

“It’s not a very profitable business because it’s very work-intensive and labor-intensive,” she said. “And if the commodity markets aren’t strong and [farmers and ranchers] don’t make much money that year, then you add this to it? It just becomes too much weight for them to carry.”

Another part of the problem is that there are fewer and fewer young ranchers to help carry that weight.

Carl Day, 30, has been with the Colorado Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program for about a month. The program involves Farm Bureau members between the ages of 18-35 that wish to become effective leaders in the ag industry, and learn more about being successful on their own farms and ranches.

Day is the third generation to raise sheep at the Open Heart Ranch, near Harvey Gap Reservoir. He said that young people are leaving agriculture because the hours are long and the pay isn’t very good.

“[Agriculture work] pays way below the minimum wage,” he said. “You work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer and, in winter, you work an 8-hour day repairing stuff.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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