Irrigation schedule grim for local farmers

Irrigation schedule grim for local farmers
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 9:19pm

The ongoing drought deals another big blow to area farmers. At a meeting Wednesday, farmers learned they'll only be allowed a fraction of the water they normally receive to water their crops.
Normally we get our water from Elephant Butte reservoir starting in March and running through October. But because the drought is so bad, the El Paso County Water Improvement District is delaying this year's release until June 7th and ending July 5th.

"It's the lowest level the reservoirs been since 1916, and they can't give us water if they don't have water,” said local farmer Hank Webb.

The borderland gets its water from the snow pack in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. This year mother nature wasn't so generous.

“We just have to do the best we can do," said Webb. "I normally make a hay crop. I won't make one this year, I'll just graze my fields with my horses."

Others might have it much worse.

"Some people who have livestock have just had to get rid of it, they cant afford to keep it," said Webb.

"if we don't have a well, an irrigation well, we're not farming," said local farmer Keith Deputy.

The El Paso County Water Improvement Project had to break the news about how they plan to deal with the lack of water in the Rio Grande, delaying the release of water from Elephant Butte Reservoir.

"It's a sad situation for farmers because you know they depend on project water, the Rio Grande water. The majority of them don't have wells to pump," said Jesus Reyes with the El Paso County Water Improvement Project.

"Farmers are gonna suffer really badly and it'll hurt the economy and I feel for them because they just can't afford to pump water. They just leave a lot of the ground idle and they won't use it," said Webb.

While the Water Improvement District is the bearer of bad news, the farmers know they are in good hands.

"They know what they're doing. They have a lot of experience," said Webb.

Reyes says recovery will take a few years even if next year brings more rain because pumping the wells separates the water tables from the river, causing much of the remaining water to be lost to seepage.

For a full irrigation schedule go here.

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