Heavy rain depletes farmers' water supply

Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
POSTED: 01:56 PM MDT Aug 08, 2013    UPDATED: 03:02 PM MDT Aug 08, 2013 
PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. -

Pueblo County farmers surveyed a critical canal Thursday whose damage could jeopardize the fate of their crop.

Pueblo County farmers were slammed with rain Wednesday afternoon. Despite the downpour, the farmers are worried they won't have enough water for their crop.

Flash floodwater damaged a critial canal. The Highline Canal feeds 23,000 acres in Pueblo County. Flash floodwater tore a hole in the canal. It cut off water to 232 farmers who need this water to keep their crops alive.

The canal broke near Nepesta Road off Highway 50. The canal can hold 500 cubic feet per second. Before Wednesday's flood, the canal's water was flowing at 100 cubic feet per second. Heavy rain on the prairie inundated canals up stream and in the areas surrounding the canal. Water in the canal rose quickly and started flowing over the top of a gravel road bordering the canal. The water swept away the gravel road, sending water out of the canal.

Water continued to wash away sides of the canal. The canal used to be 30 feet wide from ridge to ridge. In some places Thursday, it was 150 feet across.

This year's drought forced the farmers to tap into water they had stored at Pueblo Reservoir. The stored water was depleted before the rain came. The farmers are now at the mercy of mother nature until the canal is fixed.

"You need the water now to finish the crop at the end of the year, and I don't know how long it will be until we're able to get water back to (the farmers)," said the canal's superintendent Dan Henrichs.

Henrichs was at the canal at sunrise with other farmers surveying the damage.

"A little overwhelmed isn't the word for it, I'm flabbergasted," said Henrichs.

Farmers Frank Nesselhuf and Vernon Proctor need water for their crops.

"Hopefully (our crop) will go dormant and not die," said Nesselhuf. "They'll need some water pretty quick so time is money here for us."

The men said the situation for their fellow farmers was even more dire.

"I grow feed, corn (and) hay. I'm OK. My productions will be down, my yields will be down but my crops, with a little rain here or there they're going to live," said Nesselhuf. "Some of those guys (farming produce) they've got to have water timely. It will be sketchy for them."

Repairing the canal will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Everyone is going to chip in," said Hesselhuf. "We are going to try to just do it in house and save hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The farmers know it's a race against the clock. Without water, this year's crop could be destroyed.


Floodwater swept mud from the canal onto Nepesta Road off Highway 50. The road will remain closed until crews clean up the mess.