When do we call it something else?

I'm a first generation ranch manager in Mancos, CO. I currently manage a 1500 acre ranch, half of which is irrigated. I've been in the business for a decade and, in my 10 short years, have gotten whiplash from how extreme all of our weather events have become. In general, our trend has become little to no summer precipitation with no snow cover to several feet of snow cover in the winter. The 2019 spring runoff put the test to all of our diversion structures in the Mancos River but was followed by a total of just over half an inch of precip during the growing season. 2020 didn't bring us much snow and only filled our reservoir to 47%. As with most dry years, the grasshoppers were out in full force and devastated our fields. Here it is mid-September and we are operating on 3.44" since May 1st with roughly a month between rain events. I expect to see a big shift in our species composition to plants that can thrive on predominately winter moisture and summer evapotranspiration of 0.3" per day. We are already dominated by cool season grasses but I wouldn't call the 2020 growing season very cool. We are starting to rely on no-till overseeding winter wheat for a lot of our forage needs and warm season annuals when and where we can get them established. Overall, I think we need to change the semantics and management around drought. Drought tends to carry a notion of impermanence. We are essentially in our third year of drought, which, feels more permanent and requires a different mindset and management of our beautiful resources. I guess it's called aridification but that word doesn't roll off the tongue well. We are looking at a 50% stocking rate for the foreseeable future but the cost of doing business certainly isn't getting any cheaper.

mholcomb almost 4 years ago
Evening Dustin. Whiplash is a good word for it. These numbers and stats are incredibly helpful. We could chat drought semantics for days... "megadrought" (as in long term drought pattern) is thrown around often as well. While I agree "aridification" is overly academic sounding, it is increasing aridity that best describes SW Colorado's trajectory. Curious, around Mancos, do you see a big shift in field management (e.g. mindset) between drought and non-drought years?