Lack of water affects Donna’s farmers and herders.
John Billman prepares to plant the seeds for Donna’s corn maze. The business has faced challenges in recent years due to the pandemic and a restriction on public gatherings, but this year, Billman says it’s the lack of water.
“I was just going to order water for my pasture, for my animals and was told there was no water,” Billman said. “What do you mean, there’s no water?” Well, the district has no water.
Billman says to have tall corn in October, he needs to pre-water in July and start planting. The maze attracts thousands of visitors, he says. Billman pays for the water rights, but now the supply allocated to the Donna Irrigation District has run out.
“They somehow mismanaged this allocated water that belongs to me and all the other landowners in the Donna Irrigation District,” Billman said.
A sign affixed to the gate of the Donna Irrigation District states that as of June 20, 2022 there is no water until further notice, ‘unless you have purchased water under contract “.
Channel 5 News contacted Donna Irrigation District for clarification, but staff said the manager was ill.
The latest drought monitoring map shows that the valley is not experiencing drought conditions, but the upstream regions along the Rio Grande are experiencing issues.
A majority of the state is in a drought period and this is straining agricultural producers.
“It’s not the worst we’ve had, but it’s definitely not a comfortable position,” said Sonny Hinojosa, who manages water for the San Juan Irrigation District.
Hinojosa says over southern Texas it doesn’t rain much, Mexico is behind on its treaty obligations to supply water to the United States
Falcon Reservoir near Zapata is at a 22-year low and Amistad Reservoir is at a 9-year low. Both supply water to the valley.
“There are a lot of water rights owners who lack water,” Hinojosa said. “Many of them limit their use or their allocation to their customers with regard to irrigation districts.”
With four months left, what will happen to the corn maze?
“I’m going to open Donna’s Corn Maze in October without a corn maze,” Billman said. “How silly does that sound?”
“I’m not concerned about your green lawn, and I don’t think you should be if we’re going to run out of water soon or if we’re going to be heavily restricted,” Billman said. “But that’s not happening. By the time these politicians say something, we’re already too late. We’re already in a dire situation.”
Less water and the future of this landmark is now uncertain.