Workshop to address managing water needs in a dry year

Monday, March 5, 2018 10:54 AM

Last month was all about soil, and yes, soil is where everything starts.

If you build it, plants, flowers and fruit will come. If you ask a farmer or rancher – and if they’re worth their weight in dirt – they’ll tell you that the most important part of the cycle of their plants – or animals – is the soil. It’s the foundation of their livelihood and acts as the building block on which everything else is constructed.

But there is another building block critical to the success of whatever they are growing or raising, and that is water. In a year shaping up as one where moisture will come as a luxury, water is going to be critical. The challenge is that many of us have plants, trees and a lawn that will need water during the growing season, and they don’t care if it doesn’t rain. They’re like children: They have grown accustom to certain expectations, and if those expectations are not met, then they tend to have a challenging day (or season).

If you plan on planting a vegetable garden, it will need water. If you planted trees or shrubs, they will need water. And if you raise animals, hay or crops, they will all need quite a bit of water. So to understand your water availability and needs, you should be thinking about a drought or irrigation plan.

If you run livestock or have pasture, you may have to adjust your management plan if your irrigation allocation is less. This may mean adjusting your stocking rates or resting pasture. If you grow grass or alfalfa hay, you may have to decide on how many cuttings you can realistically get.

And even if you are a homeowner, there may come a time when you decide if this is the year to install a lawn or plant fruit trees. Or maybe this will be the year when you decide to convert part of the landscape to more xeric, or water-wise, plants. Maybe this is even the year to convert from sprinkler heads to drip irrigation.

As you all (hopefully) know, water is a valued commodity and precious resource. It can be unbelievably cheap or ridiculously expensive. There are water sources that are nutrient-rich and others that have been known to catch fire.

Water is a major factor in plant productivity and quality, as it can provide structural integrity for the plant, act as a solvent for the uptake of necessary nutrients and minerals, provide protection in cold temperatures and lower transpiration rates by cooling the leaves.

All of that before 8 a.m.

If you need more information, or are looking to develop a drought – or irrigation – plan, the Colorado State University Extension Office will hold a Drought Management Workshop on March 20 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

Hopefully, by planning a workshop about drought, we can get the snow and rain to fall.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter

If you go

WHAT: Drought Management Workshop

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 20

WHERE: La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave., Durango

COST AND REGISTRATION: $20 (includes lunch). Register at

CONTACT: Darrin Parmenter at (970) 759-4369