David Elder, owner of Elder’s Greenhouse and Garden, sells melons and vegetables to customers on Saturday at the Farmington Growers’ Market
David Elder, owner of Elder's Greenhouse and Garden, sells melons and vegetables to customers on Saturday at the Farmington Growers' Market outside of the Farmington Museum. Elder said drought conditions aren't a major problem for his crops, which receive their water from a nearby ditch. (Alexa Rogals/The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — David Elder handed an ambrosia cantaloupe to a customer on Saturday morning at the Farmington Growers' Market.

"You can't find these in the stores," he told the customer, explaining that type of cantaloupe has a high sugar content that makes it spoil too quickly for most stores to sell.

Elder, who owns Elder's Greenhouse and Garden, starts his crops indoors and uses water from a nearby ditch to irrigate his fields between rain storms.

Because of San Juan County's high aquifer and the steps taken to prepare for the dry seasons, Elder said most farmers in the area do not struggle much with drought and dryness, though they are ever-present issues in the southwest desert.

Families play in the Animas River on Saturday as storm clouds form on the horizon. This week’s forecast includes a slight chance of rain and
Families play in the Animas River on Saturday as storm clouds form on the horizon. This week's forecast includes a slight chance of rain and thunderstorms on most evenings. (Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

"When you have desert in part of your name, drought and dryness are part of it, and we plan for it," Elder said.

Early settlers dug ditches, including Willet Ditch, which runs through Farmington and provides irrigation water. Farmers have also learned how to capture and save flash flood waters. And reservoirs, like Navajo Lake, store water for the dry season.

Due to decreasing river flows and dry weather, the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Navajo Lake Dam, is scheduled to release water from the dam today, according to a press release from the bureau.

The release will increase water flow from 650 cubic feet per second to 750 cubic feet per second, beginning at 8 a.m.

The bureau hopes releasing extra water will maintain the target base flow through the endangered fish habitat stretching from Farmington to Lake Powell, according to the press release. Some of these fish include the endangered razorback sucker and the roundtail chub, which is currently a candidate for the endangered species listing.

To preserve critical habitat, the bureau tries to keep the base flow of the San Juan River between 500 cubic feet per second and 1,000 cubic feet per second.

Rain clouds are seen over the Animas River during the storm on Saturday in Farmington.
Rain clouds are seen over the Animas River during the storm on Saturday in Farmington. (Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

While the majority of the state is currently under drought conditions, a map released by federal forecasters shows a portion of southeastern New Mexico where the drought has disappeared, according to The Associated Press.

While the area represents less than 2 percent of the state, the change is encouraging since it has been more than two years since an area that size or larger in the state has been drought-free, the AP reports.

Pockets of extreme drought are still present in northwest New Mexico, but the areas are shrinking, according to the AP.

The impending monsoon season is expected to bring moisture to San Juan County. For local farmers, the Connie Mack World Series, which ended on Aug. 8, traditionally signals the start of monsoon season.

Last week, rain brought some moisture to the area. Chris Luckett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said .12 inches of precipitation was recorded before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday on Narbona Pass on N.M. Highway 134 through the Chuska Mountains.

This week's forecast includes isolated showers and thunderstorms, as well as a slight chance of precipitation, on most evenings, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday's forecast includes a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms during the day and night.

Elder said the peak rains generally come this month or in early September. During the rest of the year, his crops get their water from a nearby ditch.

"Dryness is not an issue with ditch water," he said.

Even on land without access to ditch water, Elder said the wells he has drilled provide him enough water. He said his wells are generally 75 feet deep, and water tends to be 16 feet beneath the surface during the summer. Elder said he has never experienced the wells going dry.

"You can't pump all of the water out of my well," he said.

Despite the high aquifers and the ditch water, Elder said he has heard concerns from local gardeners about dry conditions. Every year, he said people tell him they won't plant — sometimes even a tomato plant or two — because of the drought.

But Elder said he assures gardeners they don't have to worry about water, especially in small gardens. He said people can even use their bath water to water their small gardens, if they are concerned about saving water.

Aside from drought, plants can suffer from the heat and sunlight, as well as pests, but Elder said these risks should not keep people from planting.

"You have to live life going forward," he said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.