Colorado

Two regions in Colorado are struggling to recover from the drought

While much of Colorado continues to recover from years droughttwo small parts of the state see little to no progress in this regard.

The northeast and southeast corners stay in extreme drought conditionsand there are concerns that the brutally arid landscape is only getting worse.

Life is rarely easy on the plains of southeastern Colorado, but every day is a new challenge for the Hendricks family.

Harmony Hendricks, whose parents own the property, feels it while watering her dozens of goats and chickens. Every drop comes from water tanks they fetch from nearby Springfield, as their well recently ran dry.

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“We had problems with that early in the summer, and then we ran out of water for about 10 weeks,” she said.

While most of the state is recovering from the drought, Baca County remains in a much worse situation. Rain has been infrequent recently and much of the county is in extreme drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.

“We had a good rain, but it was kind of late,” said Sabra Sowell-Lovejoy, a Campo resident.

Sowell-Lovejoy, who raises goats, horses and chickens, said the drought is affecting the price and quality of hay for her livestock.

“With our own operations, it just gets more expensive, so your profit is much less,” she said.

Another regional resource, Two Buttes Reservoir, has also dried up. When full, the body of water is used for boating and fishing, but a CPW spokesman said there hasn’t been enough rain to get water to flow down Two Buttes Creek into the reservoir given the ongoing recent drought .

“As things like drought become more frequent, recovery becomes much more difficult, not just on the surface but below the surface,” said Becky Bollinger, an assistant state climatologist at Colorado State University.

According to Bollinger, low rainfall and hot summers can create a deficit, and this spring’s rainfall could set or disrupt the upcoming growing season.

“If we get the springtime humidity it would go a long way in reducing the impact of what we experienced in that area this winter and we could recover more quickly,” Bollinger said. “As we go into the spring and summer and these persistent dry conditions continue, these drought categories will quickly deteriorate and that would put us into the summer in a very bad shape.”

Longer term, Bollinger believes farmers may need to reconsider their operations, which could include working with agricultural extensions and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on innovative water and land management practices.

On a smaller scale, Sabra Sowell-Lovejoy begins to experiment.

“I’ve really tried to adapt my own farming operations,” she said. “I’ve used wool and various similar aspects to try and mitigate some of that water loss.”

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Across the street, the Hendricks family has no choice but to dig a new well.

“We can’t do laundry here,” Hendricks said. “We have a dishwasher, but we can’t use it right now because it uses so much water.”

It’s a costly process, but a new reality in this corner of Colorado where a precious resource can no longer be taken for granted.

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