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Water concerns prompt plea over roads

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Projects Editor

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Growing concerns about dwindling underground water supplies are prompting a plea from Curry County’s road chief.

Road Department Director Steve Reed said some farmers, particularly on the drier east side of Curry County, are over irrigating and damaging public roads. He wants farmers to be more careful and conserve water.

“I’ve got several farmers,” Reed said Monday, “they put so much water on their corn, it runs out over the fields into the barrow ditch and it spills over and either washes out the road or just spoils it.”

“To me,” said Reed, “that’s wasting water. I don’t necessarily want to point the finger at any one particular farmer. There are certain farmers who are worse than others. It’s a waste of water and a cost when we have to go fix the roads.”

County Commission Chairman Frank Blackburn, who is also a farmer and rancher, said road damage is a serious issue but seems to be isolated. Blackburn said sometimes irrigation equipment can get off track and place water somewhere other than intended, causing the issue Reed cited.

Blackburn said he has fielded complaints from homeowners in some areas about roads damaged by rutting and standing water.

“This one guy, he wanted us to put down caliche,” said Blackburn. “My goodness, that’s expensive and we can’t do that for everybody.”

Blackburn said the east side of the county hasn’t received nearly as much rain as other areas and some farmers water aggressively, particularly for high consumption crops such as corn.

“The more you irrigate, that ground will turn hard on you and won’t absorb it as fast and you sometimes get this run-off,” said Blackburn.

About 90 percent of water pulled from the Ogalalla Aquifer is used for agricultural irrigation, according to studies conducted by New Mexico’s State Engineer. The aquifer is the only source of drinking water in Curry County and across eastern New Mexico.

Water officials say aquifer supplies are dropping at a rate of about two feet a year in wells across the county.