Water Conservation in Orchards

Resources & Funding Sources

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project has worked over a decade to help growers benefit from Colorado’s endangered heritage apple trees. In the face of climate change, drought, and agricultural water deficits, MORP believes there is an urgent need to help area farmers plan for future water shortages, and a timely opportunity to demonstrate resilient orchard management practices as we rebuild a fruit economy.

Today’s generation benefits from a still productive crop made possible by the hard work of Colorado’s early fruit growers. But now, this abundance is at risk of disappearing if new trees are not planted to take their place. MORP, with support from its partner The Nature Conservancy, works to address this urgency by creating knowledge and incentives for farmers to embrace resilient orchard management practices by converting degraded fields back into sustainable apple orchards—today.

This work recognizes that bringing back apples is not only about preserving cultivar diversity and restoring a fruit economy, but also about sustainability. Heritage orchards can be grown using water efficient technologies. Historic, wide-spaced orchards planted in native drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers will improve water conservation, soil health, biodiversity, and pollinator habitat.

By implementing and demonstrating resilient orchard management practices, and taking steps to ensure continued apple production, MORP works to increase farmers’ understanding and ability to manage land and water resources sustainability for the area.

Orchard Hub

MORP owns 36.35 acres of historic orchard property – now known as the Orchard Hub – in Dolores, Colorado, irrigated with 35 shares of Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company water.

Historically the property was used for orchards, but most of the trees were cut out by 1960 in favor of water intensive crops such as alfalfa. Over time the fields became unproductive, riddled with prairie dog holes, and overgrown with invasive species. This is a scenario that repeats itself across Southwest Colorado as the weather gets hotter and drier and farmers face water shortages (see Colorado Water Plan).

MORP offers hands-on demonstrations to incentivize farmers to adopt resilient orchard management practices that conserve water, soil health, and biodiversity by re-establishing 22 acres of heritage apples at the MORP Orchard Hub property, and hopefully on your farm too! Join us in this work today. Sign up for our e-newsletter to know of upcoming workshops.

Template for Water Conservation

Support from a Water Supply Reserve Fund grant helped make possible MORP’s work to install the first phase of orchard establishment and irrigation improvements on 6.20 acres of Orchard Hub property. We will continue this work until we complete the full system build out for a total of 22 acres. Please see the documents below to use as a model on your own farm to support orchard expansion using water efficient solutions. Reach out to us anytime with questions. Resources and funding sources are also listed at the top of this page.