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More Bad News for Weld County Farmers Battling Drought

Grace Hood

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway says a recent effort to help farmers find more water for their parched crops has failed.

The commissioners sent out 30 letters to senior water rights holders along the South Platte River on July 3. The idea was to allow farmers access to wells shut down by a 2006 Supreme Court decision during what’s been an incredibly dry summer.

So far, there’s been a resounding “no” to the letter request, which asked senior water rights holders for 30 days during which farmers could pump from their restricted irrigation wells.

“I think they’re operating under some misperceptions,” says Conway. He says most responses from senior holders were concerned about how the measure would impact their ongoing rights under the prior appropriation doctrine, which prioritizes senior rights over junior rights.

“What we were attempting to do was a one-time situation where the seniors simply allowed us under an emergency drought declaration to allow some—not all—of wells to be turned on,” says Conway.

This is the second attempt by Weld County commissioners to seek drought relief for hundreds of farmers who saw their wells shut down in 2006. In June commissioners appealed to Gov. John Hickenlooper to allow farmers to use their wells, but that attempt failed.

Meantime, the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows the situation in Colorado and across the country is becoming more severe.

Currently 74 percent of Colorado is in extreme drought –up four percent from a week ago.

The bottom line for Weld County farmers like Gerald Roth, who lost access to 7 irrigation wells in 2006, is a disappointing yield. Roth has already given up on one wheat field, from which he’s planning to collect crop insurance.

Earlier this month, Roth told KUNC:

We don’t grow a crop to collect insurance, we grow a crop to have it look nice and hopefully make a profit.

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