Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/378

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364
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
IRRIGATION OF ARID LANDS.

By HENRY J. PH1LPOTT.

THERE is no more striking difference between the inhabitants of the Eastern and Western United States than the degree of their familiarity with the word irrigation. And there will never be a profounder difference than will be engendered by the thing itself. The Eastern farmer irrigates his cabbage and tomato plants when he first transplants them. His wife irrigates her flowers. The city gentleman irrigates his lawn. But the idea of watering a whole farm — not a New England "patch," but a Western ranch of from fifty to fifty thousand acres — seems a financial absurdity. What the Eastern farmer could not produce without such expensive cultivation he would say was not worth producing.

Equally incredible will seem farming without irrigation to the generation now growing to manhood over a large part of the Pacific coast. To them it will seem an absurdity not to have the water as fully under your own control as the land. They would not want to cultivate land if they had to take chances on there being neither too much nor too little rain.

What would surprise the Eastern farmer still more, if he knew it, is that thousands of acres of land, intended for nothing but hay and pasture, are not only irrigated from ditches a dozen miles long, but must first be leveled down with road-scrapers, and often the grading costs twenty-five dollars an acre. This, however, applies only to certain forms of irrigation. My present purpose is to describe a number of different ways of irrigation which I have seen exemplified on a large scale.

The simplest plan is with a street-sprinkler. It is profitable on certain crops of high value per acre. For irrigating trees and vines the spray may be taken off the wagon and a straight stream conveyed by a short hose to the roots. I have seen vineyards of one hundred acres watered in this way. It is chiefly used in tiding young vineyards and orchards over the first year, on land which thereafter will need no irrigation. It always struck me rather comically to see a street-sprinkler meandering over a field thirty miles from the nearest town, as if it had got lost and were groping about and trying to find its way back to its native haunts.

In such case the original source of the water may be a well or a mountain canon. I confess it still staggers me to see the miles of iron pipe through which a stream of irrigating water must often be carried from the mountain spring to the nearest field whereon it is to be used. A two-inch pipe, by the time it is laid,