Farmers along the Colorado River developing new techniques for conserving precious water

Water is like gold to Matt McGuire. McGuire is the general manager of JV farms in Yuma, Ariz., the heart of a region that grows nearly all the lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli and cauliflower we buy in grocery stores across the U.S.

“You probably have a million plus acres being farmed with the Colorado River water,” he told Denver7’s Eric Lupher. “Without that water, this place would not grow anything. It's a desert.”

Colorado River: Lifeline of the West airs Saturday, August 5 at 6:30 p.m. with an encore presentation Sunday, August 6 at 2 p.m. 

To make farming work, they’ve developed new techniques to make sure none of the water they pull from the river gets wasted.

One technique is called lazering. They use machines to flatten the land by either adding or scraping away dirt.

“It is tabletop flat,” McGuire said. “It has no fall one way or the other so any water we put on this field stays on this field.”

The elevation of the field doesn’t differ by more than a centimeter when they’re done.  After the crops are planted, they quickly flood the field with about a half inch of water, which keeps the water in the root zone.  Because the field is flat, there’s no runoff, so all that water goes to the plants.

While farmers in the Yuma area have some of the highest priority water rights on the river, McGuire knows what happens as far away as the Colorado mountains impacts his farm.

Right now the snowpack from everything I've read is above normal,” he said. “Once we have all these drought years and the lake levels go down, at certain lake levels they will declare a shortage on the river. It's never happened.”

While Yuma is a big military town and a popular stop for tourists, McGuire says the heart of Yuma beats because of the river.

Without the water we wouldn't have a business.”

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