water

One Sunday morning several years ago Dave Huhn got a call. He’s usually off work that day, but it was the height of irrigation season and decided to answer. The woman on the other end was frantic, screaming as she watched her 82-year-old husband from the window.

Their 86-year-old neighbor was beating him with a shovel.

The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.   

Facing exceptional drought conditions, cities throughout the watershed this summer have imposed mandatory water restrictions, ranchers have begun selling off cows they’re unable to feed, and the river’s reservoirs are headed toward levels not seen since they filled decades ago.

Austin Cope

The gravel road that leads to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm and Ranch Enterprise winds through 11 miles of desert grass and dry brush.


Eric Whyte

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe operates a large farm and ranch on its lands in Southwestern Colorado. It grows crops like alfalfa and artisan corn, and raises over 600 head of cattle. The Tribe went through a long settlement process to obtain the water rights to operate the enterprise.  But just because it has the farm and the rights to the water doesn’t mean they can use as much as they want.


Doc Searls / Creative Commons

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and other irrigators in Montezuma and Dolores Counties will receive about 20 percent less water from McPhee Reservoir this year, according to Dolores Water Conservancy District General Manager Mike Preston.

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