EDITOR NOTE: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is implementing the first-ever mandatory rationing of a water supply that will affect 40 million Americans in the West. This measure will crush American farmers, hitting Arizona farmers particularly hard. Experts project the shrinking Colorado River, which is responsible for these cuts, will eventually cause rationing for homes as well as farmers. For now, though, the measures could crush U.S. food production. This can lead to the country becoming more dependent on foreign sources for our food supply and weaken the economy as a whole.
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) — A harvester rumbles through the fields in the early morning light, mowing down rows of corn and chopping up ears, husks and stalks into mulch for feed at a local dairy.
The cows won’t get their salad next year, at least not from this farm. There won’t be enough water to plant the corn crop.
Climate change, drought and high demand are expected to force the first-ever mandatory cuts to a water supply that 40 million people across the American West depend on — the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s projection next week will spare cities and tribes but hit Arizona farmers hard.
They knew this was coming. They have left fields unplanted, laser leveled the land, lined canals, installed drip irrigation, experimented with drought-resistant crops and found other ways to use water more efficiently.
Still, the cutbacks in Colorado River supply next year will be a blow for agriculture in Pinal County, Arizona’s top producer of cotton, barley and livestock. Dairies largely rely on local farms for feed and will have to search farther out for supply, and the local economy will take a hit.
The cuts are coming earlier than expected as a drought has intensified and reservoirs dipped to historic lows across the West. Scientists blame climate change for the warmer, more arid conditions over the past 30 years.