Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/171

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
159
IRRIGATION IN THE ARID STATES.

inches of the top of the bank. It irrigates two hundred thousand acres through sixty-five laterals, of an aggregate length of one hundred and fifty miles.

But the glory of Kern is the enormous irrigation system upon the Kern Delta, constructed by two San Francisco capitalists—Lloyd Tevis and J. B. Haggin. All in all, it is the largest enterprise of the kind of which I have any knowledge. The total expenditure has been fully four million dollars. For this the owners have obtained a system of twenty-seven main canals with an aggregate length of three hundred miles, besides about eleven hundred miles of permanent laterals. Six hundred thousand acres can be watered from these artificial rivers. The sandy plain slopes south and west upon a grade of five or six feet to the mile. Very little of the land requires leveling. The great reservoir, a former lake basin, covers twenty-five thousand acres and contains fifty billion gallons of water. The various canals of this company and others take from Kern River alone a total of twelve thousand cubic feet of water per second.

Twenty years ago the value of such land was less than a dollar an acre. No settler could live on a quarter section, and like Fresno, Tulare, and in fact most of the San Joaquin Valley, it was used only for pasturage. To-day there are fields of hundreds of acres of alfalfa, where the best of Jerseys and Holsteins are kept; there are orchards of peaches, apricots, prunes, and almonds—thousands of acres—loaded each year with fruit; cotton, sugar beets, the sugar cane of Louisiana, tobacco, corn, cassava, and a multitude of the products of the temperate and semitropic regions thrive here and can be grown as staple crops.

Irrigation is often supposed to belong only to the arid lands. There, it is true, it produces the most surprising changes and the greatest proportionate increase of values. Water poured upon a rainless desert makes it blossom under the tropic sun as if some magician's wand had been waved over it. Vines, fruits, flowers, green lawns, golden wheat, and silver barley, for miles on miles, all lifted by the sparkling rivers above the fluctuations of the season—such are the changes the irrigator brings to the desert. But thousands of valleys and hillsides in the arid regions have enough rainfall to enable farmers to struggle along, and not enough to make their crops a certainty every year. Here there is an even more immediate need of water to supplement the natural supply. No available statistics can illustrate the extent to which pioneers in the Rockies, Sierras, and Coast Range are developing cheaply and easily a local supply of water for their ranches. The last census, which says there are about thirteen thousand irrigators in California (there are really twice as many), is very incomplete in this direction. Besides the organ-