Fracking Worries Colorado Farmers

Colorado farmers are facing unusual competition from energy companies for access to excess water rights. The struggle, which comes on the eve of hot summer weather and a potential drought, could prove to be a severe blow to farmers in the state.

The fight is pitting local farmers against energy companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing. The controversial process consists of forcing thousands of gallons of water underground in order to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. Supporters say this process could create jobs and help America become energy independent. Critics, however, say that fracking, as it is conventionally known, poses a serious threat to the environment.

In addition to potential water contamination, farmers and environmentalists say that diverting water to fracking permanently removes it from the water cycle. Water used for farming, they argue, can eventually find its way back to rivers and streams and can help create and protect ecological habitats. Pumping it thousands of feet underground, however, breaks this cycle.

A serious problem, some farmers say, is the process of water auctions. The Northern Water Conservatory District sells excess water diverted from the Colorado River to the highest bidder. Some farm organizations, however, see the increased demands, and the almost limitless money, of major energy companies as a problem that could hinder agricultural production. “How do we continue to sustain agriculture when there’s just more and more demand on our water resources in this state,” asked the director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer