WeatherImpact Earth


Drought declaration to impact farmers in Pinal County

Posted at 6:50 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 21:50:54-04

As of early July, Lake Mead is at its lowest level since the construction of the Hoover Dam back in the 1930s, meaning that a water shortage declaration is all but guaranteed for the Colorado River next year.

Farmers in Pinal County will feel the brunt of the cuts, which may affect the future of Caywood Farms in Casa Grande.

"We're not sure how long we can hang on. We're getting nervous about it. We can only sit back and watch this for so long," says Nancy Caywood of Caywood Farms.

The parched soil, dead grass, and dry canals are a grim foreshadowing of what may lie ahead.

"I just burst into tears. It's so emotional to me. Agriculture is in my blood."

For more than 90 years, five generations of the Caywood Family have been growing cotton and alfalfa on fields off Highway 287 in Pinal County, but as of early April, the farm no longer has access to water.

Nancy Caywood's father signed an agreement with the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District back in the 1920s, stating that his land would solely use water allotted to him that originated from the San Carlos Reservoir in Gila County. He also agreed to never drill for water, thinking that the 19,500 acre-feet supply from the lake would always be there.

At the end of May, lake levels were as low as 47 acre-feet, making it the earliest that the lake had been that dry according to the San Carlos Irrigation District.

In a statement, SCIDD tells ABC 15 that there is groundwater and Central Arizona Project water available, but not for customers in Casa Grande.

They state that groundwater supply is limited and that they would need to transport CAP water over 30 miles in an earthen canal.

"The water losses are so extreme, that we have decided not to deliver CAP water south of the Pima Lateral," which is located near Coolidge.

Nancy Caywood still must pay for the water allotted, even if the farm doesn't receive a drop. This adds up to $22,000 a year.

"If we can't come up with that, they could put a lien against our property, and we could use," Caywood says.

To help make ends meet, her son leased land in Coolidge and Eloy to plant corn for dairy farms, using the money from that contract to keep Nancy's farm afloat.

His land does depend on CAP water, and with the looming shortage declaration on the Colorado River, that money may dry up.

"We don't know what to do. We seriously don't know what to do. We're hoping for rain, we're praying for rain," Caywood says.