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Extreme drought affecting Colorado growers

In southwestern Colorado a little more than a decade ago, the region’s agricultural community considered the Mancos Valley to be one of the last best places to farm in an era of rising temperatures, crippling drought and devastating pestilence.

However, that’s not how most folks would describe the valley in 2021. Over the past few years, worrisome trends that had been building in previous decades began colliding, resulting in what appears to be a critical inflection point. After 22 years of meager winters, increasingly monsoon-free summers, higher and higher temperatures and swarms of grasshoppers, the valley’s lush blanket began to fray.

With the entire Western Slope experiencing some form of drought, ditch-feeding streams running at about half of average flows and irrigators receiving as little as five percent of their normal allotments, hundreds of farmers are now in dire straits.

According to, some climate scientists believe the term ‘megadrought’ doesn’t adequately describe what’s happening in the West, because the definition implies an eventual course correction. These experts prefer the term “aridification,” which suggests the gradual change of a region from a wetter to a drier climate. If they are right, it appears that 2002 was really a harbinger of the new normal.

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