SANTA FE, N.M. – Farmer Matt Romero doesn’t have far to travel to see a stark reminder of the ongoing drought affecting New Mexico and parts of the West.
When Romero looks over the bridge that crosses Embudo Creek just outside his home in northern New Mexico, he sees no water and it has been that way for about month, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .
Romero grows greens and other crops on his small farms in Dixon and Alcalde. Like many farmers in the region, Romero has been forced to cut back on water use and reduce the variety of crops he grows.
“We are all going to experience devastating crop losses if we don’t get any moisture,” Romero said.
More than 63 percent of the state is listed in “extreme” drought conditions with more than 20 percent categorized as “exceptional,” including areas in the northern part of the state, according to the federal National Integrated Drought Information System. Some level of drought is affecting the entire state.
Romero gets his water through the Embudo Valley’s Acequia del Llano. The area’s water is shared among six other acequias, communal irrigation systems. Farmers alternate when they receive water, Romero said.
Romero receives his share once a week for a couple of hours, but it has not been enough to sustain both of his small farms. He has largely stopped growing on his Dixon acreage with the exception of planting some tomatoes and rhubarb.
Farmers are negotiating water delivery schedules and some are being selective about their crop choices or choosing not to irrigate, said Olivia Romo, communications and outreach director for the New Mexico Acequia Association.
“It’s a very tough year,” Romo said. “We are learning how to use what we have and be more effective with irrigation.”
Some farmers are turning to crops, like beans, that don’t need as much water and can better withstand drought conditions, Romo said.
The Rio Grande flow, the state’s main vein of water, has remained low. The Rio Grande supports many of the acequias, which in turn water the farms. Danny Farrar’s 10 acres (4 hectares) in Velarde are watered by an acequia from the Rio Grande.
“The river should be in runoff, but it’s really, really low,” Farrar said. “Old-timers say they have never seen the Rio Grande completely dry up, but it might.”