Will monsoons be enough to save farmers in Southwest Colorado? — The Durango Herald #Monsoon2020

Storm over the La Garita Hills. Photo via advrider.com

From The Durango Herald (Emily Hayes):

Megan Holcomb, senior climate specialist for the Colorado Conservation Board, said “everyone has been wringing their hands and waiting” for the monsoon to come. It is always hard to predict when the rains will start, but last fall they were absent, she said.

La Plata County and Montezuma County have not seen a lot of moisture either, said Cortez agriculture expert Bob Bragg. The Mancos area is running out of water, as well as La Plata County, he said. Lemon Reservoir never reached 100% capacity in the spring, with a high point of 81% capacity in early June…

The Dolores Water Conservancy District allocates a certain amount of water per year to producers in the county, who grow mostly alfalfa – a high-quality hay, hard red spring wheat and pinto beans. Last year, the water budget for farmers was 22 inches. But the conservancy cut it back to 19 or 20 inches this year because of the dry spring.

Mark Williams, a hay farmer along the Pine River, said the last rainstorm brought close to an inch of water, which helps because it puts nitrogen in the soil and increases how long farmers can run irrigation. And grass in the pastures jumped an inch, Williams said…

During dry years like this, it can be more difficult to parse out water rights between different users upstream and downstream because there is less of it, Rein said.

And even though reservoirs were 100% full across the state in the spring, “we rely on these reservoirs through the summer months,” Holcomb said.

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