In early July, Colorado designated 14 counties "primary natural disaster areas" due to agricultural losses caused by the recent and ongoing drought. Several of those counties are in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. Farmers there are now eligible for low interest emergency loans, but as KGNU’s Maeve Conran reports, that may not be enough for this agricultural hub, which is facing a long term water crisis that could permanently affect the entire valley.
Business is booming at cattle sales yards throughout Colorado – but that’s not so good for ranchers. Last year's dry winter combined with an ongoing drought are forcing many ranchers to sell more than they like.
While the dry weather has been fueling catastrophic wildfires, it’s also fueling worries about hay. Without water, there’s no hay. Without hay, there’s no food for livestock. For KVNF and iSeeChange, Julia Kumari Drapkin has been talking to ranchers and scientists about what water stress on the Western Slope looks like in the long run.
Residents in Paonia look to Mount Lamborn every year to gauge whether there will be enough irrigation water in the summer. But with a winter that never came and the earliest, driest spring on record, residents are preparing for drought. Yet 2011 saw record snow and rain? iSeeChange has been talking to citizens and scientists about what's driving extreme weather in the Western Slope and what declining irrigation water means for farmers, ranchers, and residents.