“We are trying to understand how much water is available in agriculture without jeopardizing agriculture” — Perry Cabot

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Grand Junction Free Press (Brittany Markert):

…through his current research, he’s [Cabot] suggesting that farmers and Grand Valley residents adopt more efficient water use practices — from crop watering to shorter showers — for its long-term benefits.

To prove his theory, Cabot is studying water impacts on two Mesa County farms. One is dealing with irrigation conservation related to split-season watering. The other is irrigation efficiency, comparing the three watering systems — drip, irrigation, and furrow.

“We are trying to understand how much water is available in agriculture without jeopardizing agriculture,” Cabot said. “We look at both conservation and efficiency, to prepare them for future water issues.”

This is important to western Colorado because, according to Cabot, residential use of water takes precedence over agriculture use of water. He suggests that conservation and efficiency work hand in hand, and the future of agriculture water is up to how residents and farmers use the water available now.

Cabot said he hasn’t found the best solution for water conservation yet, but he continues to study ways for farms to be more efficient locally.

“Western Slope agriculture and Western Slope water cannot and will not be considered as a single, easy-to-go-to solution to the water-supply concerns of others,” said Mark Harris, the general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association.

There is no easy solution, Harris agreed, but there’s also no denying a large chunk of water is tied up. All communities along the Western Slope and downstream are dependent upon water available, including agriculture and municipal use.

“The future holds a lot of different opinions, though through the lens of farmers, they are resilient,” Cabot said. “If they want to keep farming, they will.”

FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE & WATER

According to Colorado Mesa University’s Water Center coordinator Hannah Holm, when water becomes scarce, farmers have a target on their backs as the first to lose it. And with Colorado currently putting together a water plan to accommodate population growth and reduction in resources, water availability is a hot topic in the agriculture industry these days.

Farmers are as concerned as the rest of the state about having enough water for the state’s future, Colorado Agriculture Water Alliance confirmed. And they’re working to understand the challenges and what the future will hold.

John Harold, an Olathe Sweet Corn farmer at Tuxedo Corn Company, said agriculture is just part of the water-shortage solution.

“We can get by with less and do just as good as job,” he said. “My son and I have 200 acres of drip irrigation and proved we can grow quality crops with less water. There’s tremendous investment to it.”

Farmers are also encouraged to invest in efficient water systems to promote less waste, while also keeping up with population growth.

“It’s a perfect example of doing more with less,” Cabot added.

For more information, visit http://www.crwcd.org.

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