Brian Wong has a lot on his shoulders. A third-generation farmer, Wong grows endangered traditional crops like white Sonoran wheat on his 4,500 acres in the heart of the arid Sonoran Desert, about 25 minutes northwest of Tucson, Arizona. We grow crops including cereals. Bakers, restaurants, breweries and mills in Minnesota and Florida rely on his grain to stay in business.
Wong’s BKW Farm is one of the 80% of the state’s farmers who rely on the Colorado River for irrigation of their crops. And with Colorado at precariously low levels, his family business faces its biggest challenge in nearly 85 years. “We understand water very well and take it very seriously,” he said. “Water is a necessity in almost every aspect of agriculture. Everything we grow is irrigated. We need a source of water to keep our crops growing.”
All of the water that irrigates Wong’s farm arrives via the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a 336-mile canal system that carries water from the Colorado River to customers throughout the state. Overall, Colorado irrigates her 5 million acres of farm and ranch land across her seven states in the Southwest and Mexico. We provide drinking water to 40 million people and support a $1.4 trillion economy.
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But climate change, extreme drought, and explosive population growth are taking a toll on the river. Colorado and its two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, will decline to catastrophic levels in 2022, forcing the U.S. Department of the Interior to declare a Tier 1 water shortage for the first time in history. The declaration has significantly reduced the amount of water that flows from the Colorado River to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. Agriculture in Arizona was hit hardest. This is because the CAP is equivalent even though he gets 30% less water from the shrinking river. Tighter restrictions will be implemented in 2023, placing more of the burden on cities and tribes.
Alongside farmers like Wong, American Rivers is urgently working with partners in utilities, local governments and conservation groups to try to fix the huge imbalance between demand and the shrinking Colorado River. is.
From working with ranchers to restore headwater habitats, to encouraging municipalities to reduce and eliminate unnecessary uses of the precious Colorado River water, to improving long-term management of the river. American Rivers is involved in many decisions, from working on new guidelines for His 1,700 miles on the Colorado River, from its Colorado headwaters to the Mexican delta.
“The hard truth is there isn’t enough water for everyone to get around,” says Wong.
We must learn to live with the smaller Colorado River. Wong says there is a way forward by working with policy makers and stakeholders to elevate the story and partnering with advocates like his American Rivers to shape water management strategies for the future. increase.
The bottom line is that “I” doesn’t work. We all depend on rivers and water and their survival. Our future demands that we invest boldly and quickly in effective strategies.