Water Restriction Woes

Living in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is truly wonderful.  We have amazing mountains, red rocks and desert.  We have lots of sunshine and dry air.  Here in the Grand Valley we have all of that plus orchards, vineyards and gardens that are known throughout the country.  Our mild climate and abundant irrigation water make these things possible.  This area gets its irrigation water from the Grand Mesa, the Colorado River and the Gunnison River.  The problem is we only have abundant irrigation water when we have sufficient snow pack in those wonderful Rocky Mountains.  Which by the way, we did not this year.  To add insult to injury, we are also in the middle of a moderately severe drought.  Our rainfall this year has been a paltry 1.38 inches.  It should be 3.87 inches.  Not a lot of rain by anyone standards to be sure.  Our average rainfall per year is only 8-10 inches with humidities during the summer ranging from 3 to 30%.  Yes, we use a lot of Chap Stick and moisturizer.

I live in the Redlands area of Grand Junction which is south of the Colorado River and the city of Grand Junction.  We get our irrigation water from the Gunnison River which is at historically low levels already this year.  We have been notified by our irrigation company that there will be water restrictions in place now and throughout the entire growing season.   (Please note that the rest of the Grand Valley – Grand Junction, Fruita, Clifton and Palisade are not under water restrictions at this time.)  This is the first time I have had to live and garden by these types of restrictions.  Since gardening is my passion (and my profession) I am wondering what effect this will have on my own landscape.  

I know all about xeriscaping (not zero-scaping) and water-wise plants.  I recommend them to clients all the time.  I wonder if I have followed my own advice though.  A  review of my landscape is in order to see what plants will do good under the water restrictions and what plants will suffer.   I know you’re thinking maybe she has a rain barrel to collect any rainfall to use for irrigation.  Two reasons why I don’t have a rain barrel – #1 – Its illegal in the State of Colorado to collect rain water for personal use.  It must be allowed to flow into the Colorado River to satisfy the water needs of the downstream states.  #2 – We really don’t get that much rain anyway  🙂 .

I know the tomatoes and herbs I just planted are going to suffer without additional water.  Most of the trees and shrubs are established and should do just fine.  We are lucky that our lawn is kentucky blue grass because it is one of the most drought tolerant lawn grasses available.  The newly planted and transplanted perennials and shrubs will need more attention so they don’t wilt and dry out between waterings.  Oh my, what about the containers? Sheesh, there’s a lot to think about and consider!

I’m going to get to work and review my landscape over the next week or so and see how it stacks up to all of the xeriscape principles I have been touting over the years.  I don’t want to be the person who says to my friends and clients “Do what I say, not what I do”.   Stay tuned.

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