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Irrigators in Northwest Colorado are facing a sea change in how they use their water, and many ranchers are greeting such a shift with reluctance and suspicion.
Hundreds of ranchers in the Yampa Valley have ignored a state request to begin measuring the water they use, putting them on a collision course with regulators if they don’t relent.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife.
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive.
With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?