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Home Grown: Local farmers facing water shortage on the Colorado River

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - In today's Home Grown, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are in danger of reaching critically low levels, causing local farmers to have to cut back on water.

Last month the bureau of reclamation commissioner appeared before the senate committee on energy and natural resources with unfortunate news for Yuma growers. 

“The commissioner of the bureau of reclamation in June, got her modeling predictions and said oh my gosh things are way worse than we thought, and in fact, so bad that we need to cut back the deliveries out of these lakes, out of the Colorado River system by two to four million acre-feet every year,” said Paul Brierley, the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture Executive Director.

Federal officials have given leaders in seven states, one being Arizona, a new challenge.

To commit to an unprecedented level of conservation before mid-August.

Brierley says agriculture is by far the biggest user of Colorado River water

“About 70 percent of water is used by agriculture, which of course means it produces food and so it’s the people that are ultimately consuming it, but agriculture is really the only player that could come up with that kind of water savings,” said Brierley.

And if the states that rely on the Colorado River can’t cut their own use, the federal government says it's prepared to do it for them.

“And so they came up with a plan that said if we can be compensated for taking less water, we’ll take an acre-foot less water on each acre that we farm," said Brierley.

Most acrage gets about 5 acre feet of water every year so that’s about a 20 percent cut.

“It’s a difficult discussion obviously. You’re taking away a key input to an industry that feeds the world," said Brierley.

Brierley says the plan for our area is still under negotiation between local irrigation districts, water attorneys and growers, with less than one month until the August 16th due date and will not impact Yuma’s high priority water right on the Colorado River.

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Samantha Byrd

Samantha Byrd joined the KYMA team in February 2022 and is the morning anchor/producer for News 11 and Fox 9.

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