WRAY — Colorado farmers who defied nature’s limits and nourished a pastoral paradise by irrigating drought-prone prairie are pushing ahead in the face of worsening environmental fallout:
Overpumping of groundwater has drained the High Plains Aquifer to the point that streams are drying up at the rate of 6 miles a year. The drawdown has become so severe that highly resilient fish are disappearing, evidence of ecological collapse.
A Denver Post analysis of federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60. While the drying out of America’s agricultural bread basket ($35 billion in crops a year) ultimately may pinch people in cities, it is hitting rural areas hardest.
“Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not. The aquifer is being depleted,” said Lois Scott, 75, who lives west of Cope, north of the frequently bone-dry bed of the Arikaree River. A 40-foot well her grandfather dug by hand in 1914 gave water until recently, she said, lamenting the loss of lawns where children once frolicked and green pastures for cows. Scott […]