First Water Reduction in Western US Supply to Hammer Arizona Farmers


Casa Grande, Arizona (AP) — A harvester rushes through the fields in the early morning light, cutting rows of corn and chopping ears, shells, and stems to root for feeding with local dairy products.

Cows won’t get salad next year, at least from this farm. There is not enough water to plant corn.

Climate change, drought, and high demand are expected to force a reduction in water supply to the Colorado River, which depends on 40 million people throughout the western United States, for the first time. Next week’s US Pioneer’s forecast will spare cities and tribes, but will hurt Arizona’s farmers.

They knew this was coming. They left the fields unplanted, laser-flattened the land, lined up canals, installed drip irrigation, experimented with drought-resistant crops, and found other ways to use water more efficiently.

Still, cutting supply on the Colorado River next year will hurt agriculture in Pinal County, Arizona’s top producer of cotton, barley and livestock. Dairy farms rely primarily on local farms for feed and need to look further for supplies, which will hurt the local economy.

Drought intensified, Reservoir sank to historic lows Across the west. Scientists have attributed climate change over the last three decades to warmer and drier conditions.

Farmer Will Serander, standing next to a dry field, said his boots kicked up the dust and said, “There are more and more farms next year because we don’t have the water to keep things growing where we want. Will be like this. “

His father, Dan, farmed his children not because of lack of water, but because his family was expected to swallow a farm between Phoenix and Tuson, which grows alfalfa, cow corn, and cotton. I tried to keep it away from. ..

“I enjoyed continuing my family business just by working with my dad,” said Thelander, a 34-year-old fourth-generation farmer with a dusty pickup truck in his office.

Thelander manages nearly half of its 6,000-acre family-owned farm under Tempe Farming Co., much of which is dedicated to cattle corn. He does not plan to grow the crop next year and will choose other crops that are more profitable on less land.

He planted nothing on 400 acres this year to reduce water usage. Farmers’ Colorado River water is located on the border between Arizona and Nevada, via Lake Mead, which acts as a barometer of water supply to Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico in the lower reaches of the river. Will be supplied.

The country’s largest reservoir has already reached a level that causes a forced shortage of 1,075 feet (328 meters) above sea level. The Pioneer Department will release official forecasts for 2022 water supply on Monday, giving users time to plan for the future.

Arizona is expected to lose 512,000 acre-foot of water. That’s about one-fifth of the state’s Colorado River supply, but less than eight percent of its total water. Nevada loses 21,000 acre feet and Mexico loses 80,000 acre feet. One acre-foot is enough water to supply one or two households a year.

The cut feels deepest in Arizona. Arizona signed an agreement in 1968 on the Junior’s right to water on the Colorado River in exchange for US funding to build a 336-mile (540-kilometer) canal to send major water through the desert. City.

Agriculture will not end in Pinal County, but reductions to farmers will force more of them to rely on already over-pumped groundwater.

Almost no one expects more 20 years of megadrought Improve. Models show that the Colorado River will shrink further over the next few years due to climate change, ultimately leading to additional reductions that can affect home faucets.

The river carries melted snow from the Rocky Mountains and other tributaries to seven western states, providing drinking water, crop nutrition, and plant and animal habitat. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are the two largest reservoirs on the river. Popular for recreation And their dams are producing hydraulic power in the area.

Sarah Porter, director of the Arizona State University’s Center for Kill Water Policy, said: “Once it was called the Nile in the west, it’s almost unbelievable these days.”

Arizona is in a position to survive logging by storing and conserving water underground and in Lake Mead. We are also trying to secure another water source. Options include importing groundwater from other parts of the state into the metropolitan Phoenix and Tuson, leasing more water from tribes, creating a stronger supply of reclaimed water, and the Gulf of California, Mexico. May desalinate the water.

Ted Cook, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, which manages the canal system that carries river water, said: It costs more than others, but you have to do all of them. “

Under the drought emergency response plan signed by the western states in 2019, some of the water lost by farmers will be replaced by other sources next year. Arizona, the Central Arizona Project, environmental groups and others have invested millions of dollars to mitigate the impact on farmers and improve groundwater infrastructure.

Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, where Thelander runs a farm, plans to complete nine wells by the end of the year.

District President Brian Hartmann said he would not use pumps in places like before, look for other sources of water, and look to cities and tribes with high-priority water rights.

The next few months will be important for planning the future with less water.

“The grower will ask,’How much water do you get, how many acre-foot you will get, what kind of flow will it be?’ And that will determine the planting pattern,” he himself is a farmer. Hartman said.

Paul “Paco” Ollerton, 66, who grows mainly animal feed, plans to plant 25% to 35% less land next year.

He thought he had finished farming in 2005 when he sold his land. One of the reasons is that I knew it was difficult to get water.

“I finally woke up one day and thought that one day the Secretary of the Interior would say,’It’s more important to wash the toilet and brush your teeth with water than the farm,'” Ollerton said.

Too young to retire, he refinances land and farms throughout Pinal County.

He said one of his farms along the interstate highway leading to San Diego is using drip irrigation to make water use more efficient and crops more productive. He circles the cotton field and flushes the system valves with Aggie, a yellow laboratory in the backseat of a pickup truck.

His two children talk about being a peasant, but he doesn’t promote long time or uncertainty. Three generations of farming will probably end with him.

For Thelander, he is thinking of getting out of agriculture and starting a truck business. But he also finds hope in Guayur, a drought-resistant shrub that can be used to produce rubber. His family’s farm is participating in a study to see if tire makers can use it on a large scale.

“This is my Ave Maria and I’m trying to save agriculture for myself,” said Thelander.


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