COOLIDGE — With much of Arizona in a drought, the San Carlos Reservoir near Globe is no different and farmers are suffering with little water for their crops.

San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District General Manager Shane Lindstrom said that while the monsoon rains helped a little, storage is well below last year’s.

According to data from Gilawater.org, as of Sept. 20 the reservoir had 37,000 acre-feet of water compared to 60,000 in 2020. A week later the acreage feet of water dropped to 31,842. This makes up 3.7% of the reservoir capacity. Before the monsoon rains there was no water at all in the reservoir.

“We could not get any more water out of the reservoir,” Lindstrom said, adding the monsoons helped for a short period of time.

For example a one-hour storm might amount to an inch of water being added to the reservoir. The Gila River is not a reliable source, and weather in New Mexico over a period of time is most important to San Carlos. If it snows a lot in Silver City N.M. that snowpack would be the best scenario for the reservoir.

“The challenge is the reservoir went dry,” Lindstrom said. “Our problem is we cannot get any Central Arizona Project water (from the Colorado River) to (back up) the system.”

Lindstrom pointed out that the water pulled from the reservoir has to travel 100 miles through irrigation ditches before it reaches Casa Grande in a system that is about 100 years old. Traditionally the canals were dirt, but that is changing, as some are now lined with concrete.

He said the district tries to group orders together, though those on the tail end of delivery suffer the most.

Farms receive a limited amount of water, and they can use their share any way they want while knowing no more will be arriving.

“It is up to the growers to decide how they are going to use the water they receive,” he said.

“Last year it was very low because there was not much water behind the dam — less than one-half acre foot of water for 100 acres,” he said. “Growers (need to) irrigate their best land. Their livelihood is their land.”

Growers could always purchase additional water from CAP in the past, but Lindstrom pointed out there is a limited amount there as well.

The San Carlos District’s Coolidge office has charts for the amount of water the reservoir has received for more than 100 years. Some years there was plenty of water, and other years, like now, it was pretty dry.

Some growers are looking at crop selection since there is a limited amount of water, though that is a personal choice made by the landowner, he said.

“There will always be ebbs and flows,” Lindstrom said. “It will come back up, but — when is the question?”

Lindstrom said building solar panels on farmland just because there is limited water now does not take into account the future.

“It’s a renewable water supply,” he said. “There will be rainy seasons. It alway rains after a dry spell.”

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