Saturday, September 5, 2009

Article #70 Water and Irrigation Canals


The backbone of survival in the west for the early settlers and pioneers was the development of irrigation canals. As soon as the Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake valley they immediately hoed a few rows of ground and planted some seed potatoes, then diverted water from the local creek to irrigate their crop. It was necessary to grow food to live on in their settlements so far from civilization.

One of the first things to do when moving into an area was to built a fort for protection against the Native Americans, then irrigation canals were carefully surveyed by primitive instruments to run by gravity flow from their source in nearby mountain canyon streams to the fields used to grow crops and support livestock. Most early towns had an irrigation company that everyone was required to join and work on in order to use the water for their fields and households.

Water was the lifeblood of the west because of the arid climate and lack of rainfall. Without some means of diverting the natural streams into canals and ditches, no crops would grow in this high desert. There was always the danger of sudden downpours or flash floods that washed away dams and irrigation ditches as well as any homes built too close. Many carefully hand dug trenches were swept away by sudden summer downpours or flash floods; then the process of surveying and digging by hand was begun all over again.

Humble log cabins had irrigation canals running through their lot where the family would take a bucket and carefully hand water any trees planted to give needed shade or fruit for eating. Women loved to grow flowers to beautify their home. Without a hand dug well, the canals provided the only water for household use.

Nowadays we take for granted running water and hot water. It would have been truly a luxury for our ancestors. Although my grandmother had running water into her house in pipes, she still had to carry the used household water out by hand and use an outhouse located behind her home. Washing hands was accomplished with a pitcher and a basin bowl. Weekly baths were allowed once a week with the scarce water. Nowadays we have built huge concrete dams, massive pipelines and water treatment plants to supply us with clean water, that we unfortunately take for granted.

8 comments:

kavita said...

It still is a distant dream for the people of many remote villages in our country...but again it is a very large country to cover and if our politicians were not corrupted many villages would have been benefited...one thing i admire the most about your country is the love and dedication shown by the citizens as well as the government towards your country.

Linda Reeder said...

I can remember when we had a new well dug to replace the shallow well with a hand pump. That new well had an electric pump, and allowed us to remodel the two room house, adding indoor plumbing, replacing the outhouse, the little enamel tub we used once a week behind the woodstove, and the old ringer washing machine. We could then raise a garden and use hoses and sprinklers to water it. I guess my own mother was a pioneer of sorts.

Kay said...

We used to have irrigation canals in the countryside here in Hawaii. On the Big Island, I remember there being pollen in the water coming from the tap.

Mare said...

I never would have made it as a pioneer. I am very thankful for running water abd indoor plumbing!!

Amy De Trempe said...

I've hauled water when camping and can't imagine it being a way of life. We do have it a lot easier now and take a lot for granted.

Cheryl /Ashton said...

This makes me stop and think how much I take having water for granted. To never worry about not having enough, one can buy fancy flavored waters to drink, fill big pools with it and have fancy fountains shooting water into the air. We certainly are a very, very lucky country.

SandyCarlson said...

As I emptied a warm tea kettle into the sink yesterday, I thought I should have let it cool completely and given the clean water to the houseplants. I was ashamed of my waste. Your post reminds me of how important every drop is. And how all things are possible.

Rambling Woods said...

We do take water for granted. Think of how most of the third world could benefit from a steady supply of clean water... Interesting history you posted also...