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Officials say they do not know when the water will be turned back on to irrigate NAPI's farmlands

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FARMINGTON — Officials today were still evaluating what caused a break in the water delivery system that serves Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

NAPI officials learned at about 2 p.m. Friday that there had been "a significant reduction in the canal level" near the Kutz Lift Station, according to a press release NAPI issued today.

Later that day, officials learned a siphon in the water delivery system had broken.

The siphon is built in 20-foot sections, and one of those sections was compromised, said NAPI CEO Wilton Charley in a phone interview today.

He said crews pumped water out of the section and will later excavate to determine the extent of the damage, as well as what caused the siphon to break.

Charley said he expects to know more about the damage later in the week.

Meanwhile, the control gates to the water system have been closed to isolate the problem. Because of that, water was not being delivered to the NAPI farms.

Bates said the water shut-off has only affected NAPI, and he does not know when water will be turned on again.

Charley said NAPI has either already planted or was in the process of planting all of its crops, including beans, potatoes, alfalfa, corn and wheat. He said the longer the plants go without water, the more harmful it will be to the crops.

He said NAPI and U.S. Department of Interior officials are looking into short-term solutions to provide water to the fields.

The broken siphon is located beneath a wash. When it broke, about 128 acre-feet of water spilled into the wash, according to the NAPI press release. The break also damaged a Farmington Electric Utility System powerline near Kutz Canyon, the release states.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates visited NAPI's headquarters south of Farmington on Friday evening to receive an update on the situation.

He said in an interview today that because the broken siphon was built in the early 1970s, companies may no longer manufacture a replacement for it.

"This is not one of those items that come off the shelf," he said.

He said, fortunately, the weather has remained relatively cool, which will help the young plants.

Bates, who grows alfalfa, saw his access to irrigation water dry up last year after the Gold King Mine spill forced officials to temporarily close irrigation ditch head gates along the San Juan River.

Bates said he lost five acres of alfalfa due to the lack of water. He estimated that cost him about $5,000.

In contrast, Bates said, NAPI has 72,000 acre of irrigated farmland that could be affected by the break in the water delivery system.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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