With the onset of spring, many on Wright’s Mesa are discussing water and the summer’s irrigation outlook. Last year, the Norwood area, which relies on the Gurley Reservoir, suffered. Ranchers had trouble making hay, restrictions went into place for outside watering in town and residents were encouraged to conserve domestic water. This year should be better, according to Wilton Barrett, ditch rider for Farmers Water Development.
“Right now, the outlook is extremely good, depending on how the snow comes off the mountain,” Barrett said. “It was so dry last year, a lot of the snow we are seeing is just going straight into the ground, it’s going to take a while to start running water.”
According to the Farmers Water bylaws, the ditch water used for agriculture can be turned on as soon as April. But, Barrett said, the ditch can’t run yet, as some snow has to melt and run off to start filling the reservoir.
At this point, much of the snow in the high country is still cold and staying put. He said the Beaver Park area has a few feet of snow yet and that must melt to begin filling the reservoir.
“(The reservoir) is only 15 percent full — we have a lot of room and can take quite a bit of room. We’re just waiting for it to turn from white to wet,” he said.
Barrett said the temperatures in Norwood need to be about 70 degrees for several days before Farmers Water can start releasing water. His guess is that the reservoir will fill up a little over the next few weeks and that ditch water will be running sometime in the later part of April or even May 1.
He agreed that everything in the Norwood area is already greener now than it was last summer. He added he also hopes for some spring showers to keep the environment damp. He also hopes the wind doesn’t pick up, as debris and dirt would negatively affect the snow pack in place.
Last year, the Town of Norwood implemented a raw water system for residents who bought into it. Barrett said he believes town gardeners will be able to access their shares of raw water. He said Farmers Water is ready to coordinate with town officials to “get the hiccups out” during the first 10 days or so of the ditch running. Then, he said, managing the lawn and garden water will be a continued collaboration.
According to Barrett, the forecast for the next 90 days calls for average to above average precipitation, more good news for those crossing their fingers in hopes of a good water year.
Barrett, who has been the ditch rider the last 34 years, said Farmers Water has a well-rounded board in members Dave Alexander, Lothan Snyder, Kenny Hellman, Todd Snyder and Chris Trosper.
“We’ve got a good board, completely up and down the mesa, not just concentrated in Norwood,” he said. “Everything from business man to a rancher; a pretty good mix.”