The drought in Colorado continues to intensify, with nearly 15% of the state experiencing Exceptional Drought, the highest drought rating, 32% is in Extreme Drought and 61% is suffering from Severe Drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. The entire Four Corners Region is in extreme to exceptional drought with exception of the Chuska mountains, Conditions are unlikely to change in the near term, because the National Weather Service long range forecast is predicting that drought conditions will persist into mid summer. In response to drought and low water supplies, water managers have significantly curtailed irrigation water allocations for farmers and ranchers, dryland farmers are reconsidering what they’ll plant this spring, and many ranchers are setting up drought contingency plans. Barring a miracle of nature, all of us who live in the Region will have to adapt to limited water supplies. Home owners also need to plan for a dry summer concerning their lawns and gardens. Colorado State University Extension and turf grass specialists recommend that grass should be cut to no less than three to four inches in height and that only a third of the leaves of the growing grass should be cut at anyone time. Water should be applied with deep infrequent watering to the depth of the root system. Generally, the root system of grasses are about the same length as the top growth, so continually mowing grass down to an inch and a half doesn’t allow grass to grow root systems that are tolerant of dry conditions. Experts suggest that when the grass doesn’t spring back after it’s walked it should be watered, but if water supplies are very short, home owners should consider applying water to shrubs and trees, which cost much more to replace than grass.
Cattle are are often cast as villains in global warming, said to produce about 78% of total livestock emissions. But a research team, led by Colorado State University and funded by the Climate and Land Use Alliance, found that growing bigger cows at a faster rate and increasing soil and plant carbon sequestration on grazed lands could reduce emissions by as much as 50% in the U.S. and Brazil. The study, “Reducing Climate Impacts of Beef Production: A synthesis of life cycle assessments across management systems and global regions,” was recently published in the journal, Global Change Biology. The research team found that using carbon sequestration management strategies on grazed lands, including organic soil amendments and restoring trees and perennial vegetation to areas of degraded forests, woodlands and riverbanks produced a 46% reduction in GHG emissions. This study appears to point out that emissions from cattle are more a problem husbandry, not that cattle are inherently more prone to emitting GHGs than other livestock.
President Biden’s infrastructure plan has been getting a lot of scrutiny lately with much of the discussions concerning urban renewal like repairing bridges going into cities and fixing problems with transportation. But rural America may see some benefits from the proposed two trillion dollar plan. At this stage, it calls for spending $100 billion on rural broadband, $20 billion repairing rural highway bridges, $10 billion for rural and tribal water systems, $5 billion for the rural partnership program and $2 billion to invest in USDA rural housing loans.
After the history-making blizzard on Colorado’s Front Range and some good wet snow fall in the Four Corners Region, some folks think that the drought in Colorado is over. But the Natural Resources Conservation Service points out that all but two rivers in the state are below 100% of average snow pack. The Arkansas river basin is at 106% of average, and the and the Rio Grande is at 101%, but the snow pack goes down from there in all of the other river basins in the state. The Dolores river has the lowest snow pack, which is below 80% of average. For the rest of the state, the snow pack doesn’t look too bad, until scientists factor in the dryness of the soils when the winter season started. The Meager anticipated snowmelt runoff is expected to mean another challenging year for maintaining even below-optimal levels of flows in the Colorado River downstream of the Palisade area for the benefit of endangered fish. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center expects that the April-July water supplies will range from 60-85% of normal in various parts of the basin. In southwest Colorado, Irrigation company managers are letting farmers know that irrigation water supplies will likely be cut in half or more unless by some miracle a lot of rain storms pass out way.