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Utah County alfalfa farmer concerned about water supply

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Posted at 9:46 PM, Apr 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-28 23:46:32-04

SPRINGVILLE -- In the history of Harward Farms in Springville, it’s never been quite this hard to grow the business.

“No, we’re going to be tight,” said owner, Jud Harward.

Harward has been patiently waiting for his fields to turn from brown to green this season.

“It lay in dry dirt for about two weeks, waiting for a rain to come,” he said. “And so we started to irrigate it, which is unprecedented for us.”

The alfalfa farmer is one of many from Utah County to southern Utah who has seen their business start to dry up in the last few years.

“We usually try and have a three-year storage, water storage, and we’re at the third year now,” Harward said.

They’ve been pulling water from the Strawberry Reservoir for their crops, a resource that can supply the demand for now, but not forever.

“We have been OK,” Harward said. “But we have been depleting our reservoirs and our storage capacity. So, if this trend continues with us, like next year, then we’ll be way short of water.”

That will all depend on what happens in the next month, according to National Weather Service hydrologist, Brian McInerney.

“You want more of these storms all the way through May. And then, at the end of May we want to flip the switch, turn the heat on, bring the sun out and then melt it off all at once,” McInerney said.

But as in past years, Mother Nature hasn’t always given us what we’ve wanted or needed.

“After two years of below-average runoff, we needed volumes in excess of 120 percent of average this year to fill the majority of the reservoirs in this state,” McInerney said. “And we just didn’t get that at all.”

The result isn’t just costly for Harward’s farm. As the demand for hay rises, so do the prices for consumers. According to Harward, it’s a cost that will only grow, if the crops can’t.

“We’ve got dairies from California up here buying our hay this year in unprecedented amounts because California is in a major drought,” said Harward. “It all comes back in the vicious circle, in that you’ll probably see it in the milk case. One place you’ll see it is in the price of milk, your cheeses, your dairy products, your yogurts.”