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A war of wills underway in New Mexico

In the early part of June, 2002, Phillip Box, Tucumcari, N.M., announced, “I’m not going to shave or cut my hair until the drought breaks.” He had just used the last irrigation water from the Conchas Dam built for the irrigation of 43,000 acres in the San Miguel Valley Irrigation District, part of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District.

The following year, going from bad to worse, was the first and only year there was no allocation of water since the district built the irrigation system prior to World War II. That was 2003. Now well into 2004, the entire state of New Mexico remains drought stricken, with a large portion of the state classified as suffering ‘exceptional drought’ by the U.S. Drought Montior (for more information visit: http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html).

Box will not be visiting the barber until there is a full allotment of irrigation water or enough rain not to need it.

In the meantime, Box is asking for disaster assistance from the federal government for his community of farmers and ranchers. Thus far, the government purports that not irrigating is a management decision. In a letter to the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency, Box wrote: “The lack of irrigation water due to extended drought on a recognized watershed must be considered an “Act of God.” He went on: It is in no way a management decision by farmers and ranchers. For the lack of irrigation water from the lack of rainfall to be a management decision, farmers must have some amount of control. Who here today has the ability to make it rain?

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