Weissgold Update, Week 2: Lower Arkansas Valley


As I near the end of my second week with Palmer I am just starting to get a grasp on the many facets of the work being done in the office. This week I had a chance to sit in on a board of trustees meeting, tour the Lower Arkansas Valley projects, and conduct my first solo monitoring visit- thoroughly exciting, though those of you who know me know that most everything is ‘thoroughly exciting’ to me.

I could wax poetic for several pages about the Lower Arkansas Valley tour that I went on yesterday. It was one of the most informative and educational days I’ve had for a while. As an economics major, talking about and thinking about water rights is fascinating. Essentially, what transpired in the Lower Arkansas Valley was that, for myriad reasons, many farmers in Crowley County ended up selling their water rights to municipalities located elsewhere in the state. What this means is that they no longer had water with which to irrigate their crops, letting the fields fall fallow. What was once a bustling agricultural hub had a fairly severe economic downturn from which they have yet to, and likely will never, fully recover.

Seeing the stark contrast between the land which is irrigated and that which isn’t was eye-opening. Coming from the relatively lush Colorado College campus it is sometimes easy to forget the gravity of water scarcity in Colorado- seeing the dry land really made this hit home. Water is truly integral to every industry as well as the success of the human race. Ensuring that water is at least relatively fairly proportioned is extremely important to the economic and social livelihood of any community, most of all one where water is not plentiful. Palmer is working in this area to preserve the remaining farmland to ensure that there is agricultural security for generations to come. The more I learn both about agriculture and water law the more I grow to understand  how the work is complicated and nuanced.

In my spare time I am also an avid gardener so it was really interesting to see the Colorado State University research station in Rocky Ford where Palmer board member Dr. Mike Bartolo showed us the hundreds(!) of varieties of peppers and tomatoes grown for crop experiments. The experiments at the site range from sun protection for plants to in-ground drip irrigation.

The entire day was informative and refreshing. Seeing what Palmer is doing on the ground to preserve the integrity of the agricultural community in Southern Colorado was impressive. We ended the day going to a local farmstand where I bought some local tomatoes and stone fruits. Needless to say, I am excited to see how my internship can manifest itself in the Lower Arkansas Valley and the work being done there.

Until next week!