Yuma farmers, located in southwestern Arizona, are starting to take measures to protect their livestock and crops amid one of the longest and largest droughts on record in areas of the Southwest, particularly in the Colorado River Basin.
The Colorado Basin, which begins in the Rocky Mountains and ends just south of the U.S./Mexico border into the Gulf of California, provides a significant amount of water for farms throughout areas of the Southwest.
"The drought in the Colorado River basin has been going on as long as in California, though it hasn't been severe it still has been significant," AccuWeather Western Weather Expert Ken Clark said.
Clark also explained that lakes such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell, one of the nation's largest reservoirs and storage areas for farms in the Southwest, are well below capacity as a result of the drought. According to Lake Mead water data, the Lake Mead is 143.96 below full pool and is currently 37.3 percent full. Meanwhile, Lake Powell is 86.5 feet below full pool and is currently 53.8 percent full.
Both of these lakes store water from states in the upper part of the Colorado basin for the states in lower basin such as Arizona where Yuma farms are located. These farmers are large producers of many winter crops, and they rely heavily on the snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains to fill these lakes. Despite a normal snow pack in the Rockies last winter, many of the water levels in these lakes and dams are still well below normal.
"Any type of leafy greens that are on your plate during the winter season such as broccoli, lettuce and spinach are a result of the Yuma farmers in the area," said Wade Noble, a lawyer and spokesperson for Yuma County Agricultural Water Coalition said.
"Because of the weather and great climate during the winter months, this area is the perfect location to grow these crops during the winter months."
Noble added that farmers have begun taking measures by using the water in the region more efficiently and developing more effective irrigation methods based upon the productivity of the land. Farmers have also begun to focus more on winter crops over other crops due to how profitable and important they are to the rest of the nation.
"Although the drought hasn't caused any particular damage or impact to their crops so far, these farmers are doing the right thing in preparing for the months to come," Noble said.
Despite the drought conditions, there hasn't been any type of water cuts issued for the area so far, Noble said.
Clark states that monsoonal rain expected to impact the region into September will bring some short-term relief to the area but will not provide help to the long-term drought.
"With the drought going on and the money that is being lost in the West as a result of it, we tend to forget about some of these farmers," Noble said. "We cannot stop eating and therefore we cannot stop growing these crops so these farmers will always be an important part to our agricultural system."