In the trenches: Water and drought in West

It is always exciting to discover a buried treasure when you’re out digging.

During the last few days, I have been working to replace a broken waterline that leads from the pump house to the barns and corral.

Last Thanksgiving, we discovered that the old line had begun to leak badly and needed to be shut off.

Shutting this line left my wonderful automatic watering system dry, and this resulted in a long winter of garden hoses being laid out weekly through the snow to keep the water tanks filled for the sheep.

I finally got started on the project last week with a rented excavator.

As I dug the new trench toward the corrals I found that hidden treasure: the main inlet line that runs from our pond to the pump house for all our nonhousehold water supplies.

Oops, my bad. I had hoped to avoid this line, but in the 32 years since I had installed it, I had forgotten its exact location. My little hidden treasure resulted in a few hours of working in the muddy trench to repair the break before completing the 300 feet of new waterline and new hydrants around the barn.

As I dug my trenches, I noticed some scary issues. Any areas that I have not irrigated this spring were already nearly devoid of moisture. With our limited winter moisture and warm and early spring, the plants have already used up their summer’s moisture.

While not as severely dry as the drought of 2002, Southwest Colorado is headed into a dangerous fire season very early.

While the irrigated croplands will stay green, the forest and rangeland is not far off from being ready to burn.

Fire weather watches and red-flag warnings are forecast for our area late this week with low humidity and dry winds.

Now is the time for you to spend a day outside your home and get it “fire ready” for this summer.

Take some time and make a plan for your family’s and animals’ safety. Protect your valuable papers and property in case you are forced to evacuate or cannot return home because of a fire.

As the West dries out and we build throughout the forests, we are going to have fires that burn homes and neighborhoods.

Take some time now to make sure that you are ready and have done your part to have defensible space around your home. If you have questions, contact your local fire department or the Firewise coordinator for your area.

Remember, your fire department cannot do much to protect your home when the fire is threatening it if you have not done much to protect it before the fire starts.

Take some time and prepare and always be fire wise.

Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.