Colorado River Crisis Demands Focus on Farm Conservation Programs

If it hadn’t been for the salt in the soils beneath his farm near Hotchkiss, Colorado, Tom Kay likely would not have been able to fully irrigate his corn field this past summer. Because he has salty soils, Kay was able to get government assistance to replace an old flood irrigation system with a center-pivot sprinkler system several years ago. Sprinklers place water more precisely where the crop needs it, so less water soaks below the root zone or runs off the fields. That means less salt from the soil gets carried into the Gunnison River and, subsequently, the Colorado River. Salty irrigation water causes crop losses downstream, which is why government money is available to do things like help Kay buy sprinklers.