Cities have gobbled up water rights for decades, leaving farmers to rent the water back to irrigate crops and raise cattle. During a drought, cities are reluctant to give up any of their reserves. With little irrigation water, farmers must plant less, hire fewer people and bank on crop insurance.
Denver and Fort Collins have started mandatory watering restrictions response to persistent drought conditions. Greeley and Colorado Springs are expected to follow suit. Residents who violate the law could be fined as much as $1,000.