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Drought cycles in Colorado

You can't always count on unlimited water at the tap. If you look at the history of the state, you'll see that drought is a regular visitor to Colorado. In the 1900's alone, four prolonged dry spells occurred. There was one in the 1910s. Another, in the 1930s, caused the infamous dust-bowl period. The second worst drought on record occurred in the mid-1950s. A series of hot, dry summers following a period of scant mountain snowpack created water shortages. The fourth drought hit parts of Colorado in the late 1970’s. In this century, the most severe drought since 1723 hit the state in 2002. Prior to the 1700's, researchers looking at tree ring records have found evidence of even more severe droughts, some lasting many years.

It is not a question of if, but when, the next water crisis will hit Colorado. What can you do to prepare for the inevitable dry face of Mother Nature? Landscapes will be one of the first things affected by water shortages. Landscapes that require high water input may fall victim to periods with limited water availability. Do something now to minimize the impact of future droughts. Manage existing irrigation with an eye to improving water efficiency.  Many new irrigation products incorporate smart water technology.  Design and plant landscapes using drought-resistant trees, shrubs, and perennials that can withstand extended dry periods. Group plants according to water needs. Create practical turf areas for play, or recreation.  Use mulch in beds to conserve water, and use appropriate amendments for your soil.  You'll be more in tune with living in the West by following these sustainable, water-wise ideas. 

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).


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Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014