A Colorado River Crisis for Ag?

Aug 26, 2022

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Colorado River, plagued by a 22-year megadrought. It’s the driest period in more than 1,200 years thanks to crazy heat waves and clearly, a giant lack of precipitation.

So bad they can’t ignore it: The Biden Administration allocated $4B through the Inflation Reduction Act for drought mitigation for “federally designated reclamation states.” The Colorado River basin is at the top of that list.

Deep cuts are being made just to get by. Arizona is looking at a 21% cut in their water supply from the Colorado River, while Nevada’s decreases by 8%, and Mexico’s by 7%.

Folks won’t face any immediate new restrictions…yet. You can still wash your car and water your grass, but unpopular rules on water usage are just down the road – especially when it comes to deciding between booming cities or agricultural acres.

What does all this mean for agriculture? Agriculture accounts for 70% of Colorado River consumption for irrigation.

Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition is peddling a water-conservation plan that will pay them to not use some of the water they’re allotted.

The Deets: Arizona and California farmers would *voluntarily* conserve 925K acre-feet of water each year for four years and receive about $1,500 for each acre-foot. But it’s a double-edged sword because less water usage for ag means less food produced.

With deeper water cuts, Phoenix-area cotton farmer Paco Ollerton is concerned. He only grew half his normal crop this year.

Soundbite: “It kind of changes my thinking about how much longer I’m going to continue to farm,” Ollerton said.