Colorado Drought Major Tragedy

Published online: Jul 12, 2002
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>Colorado’s worst drought since 1890 has potato producers in the San Luis Valley worried for their 2002 crop.

The San Luis Valley aquifer, serving 50,000 people and a $500 million farming/ranching industry, has fallen, leaving hundreds of rural wells dry.

In addition, many large wells on SLV farms have given out. These wells irrigate 150,000 acres of farmland in the valley.

Engineers, who have been recording the aquifer’s rise and fall since 1876, via wells throughout the 3,000 square miles of the valley, report they have never seen the level so low.

The Rio Grande flow at Del Norte is 130 cubic feet per second. This is the lowest flow at the gauging station that has ever been recorded during an irrigation season. Water rights issues will need to be straightened out with users downstream in New Mexico, Texas and into Mexico.

The Valley is so dry experts are worried about next year. They don’t think the monsoons and next winter’s snowpack will be capable of recharging the aquifer and reservoirs.