From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
On Aug. 25, Montezuma County went from a severe drought to extreme drought, which covers nearly the entire Western Slope, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Extreme drought Level D3 – is the fourth-highest of five drought categories.
Then there is the record-breaking heat wave.
Cortez broke eight daily high temperature records in August and tied one, said Jim Andrus, a Cortez weather observer for the National Weather Service…
Farmers experienced 10% to 15% water shortages this year from McPhee Reservoir, said General Manager Ken Curtis of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. Allocations for full-service irrigators were at 19 inches per acre, down from the full supply of 22 inches.
The 380,000-acre-foot reservoir will be drawn down to its 151,000-acre-feet inactive pool…
Project irrigators, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm and Ranch and the downstream fish pool all shared in the water shortages.
Back-to-back years of limited monsoonal rains have left soils dry going into fall. Much of the winter snowpack melt was absorbed into the soil before making it to the river and reservoir.
This year’s saving grace was carryover supply in McPhee left over from the above-normal snowpack of last winter, Curtis said.
Unfortunately, there is no carryover storage for McPhee heading into this winter, and the soil has again dried out.
Yields were somewhat down for alfalfa, officials said, because the limited water supply was spread too thin or was concentrated on fewer fields, Curtis said.
Alfalfa for Montezuma and Dolores counties is harvested three times per summer and is marketed to dairy farms. Farther south, Ute Mountain Ute farms harvest alfalfa four times per year.
Soil moisture was below 50% of average for dryland farmers, said Gus Westerman, Dolores County Extension agent.
Yields for winter wheat, which is planted in fall and harvested in early summer, especially suffered from the soil moisture deficit.
Pinto beans and the third alfalfa crop have not yet been harvested, and farmers are preparing to plant winter wheat…
The dry weather the past two years was attributed to persistent high pressure over the Four Corners, said meteorologist Tom Renwick of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction…
Why the persistent high pressure zone in the Four Corners area of the Southwest is a bit of a mystery to meteorologists, who have nicknamed it Triple R for “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” Renwick said. “It is happening more and more frequently.”