IRRIGATION IN UTAH.
At the recent National Irrigation congress at Ogden, Utah. Secretary of Agriculture Wilson read a paper on the subject of irrigation in Utah, in which he pointed out that the principal object of the congress was to secure government aid in the building of irrigating works for the reclamation of the arid lands by increasing the water supply, where possible, and by making better use of the water on hand. He went on to say: “Measurements made up to and including the season of 1901 show that canals on an average lose 6.75 per cent, of the water entering them in each mile of their length. The general average of the volume, lost by canals in their entire length is usually given as one-third of the volume diverted, although our measurements would indicate that it is even greater. The saving of these losses from canals means an increase of at least a third in the area which can ultimately be reclaimed. The measurements show that the percentage of loss from small canals is more than seven times that from large canals. Great saving can, therefore, be made by running water in large canals rather than in a large number of small ones.” The benefit would be greater still, if saving the water in use were attempted. “Our measurements (he said) of the quantities actually used by farmers show that some use from five to ten times as much water as others who are raising the same crops under similar conditions, and who secure equally good, if not better returns. There is no way of telling what proportion of farmers use too much water, but the measurements referred to seem to justify the estimate that on an average farmers use at least twice as much water as is necessary under present methods. If this saving can be made, it means a doubling of the areas which can be reclaimed, and that while little expense to anyone, since most canals cover much more land than they now supply with water. One method of inducing farmers to be more economical in the use of water would be to base charges for water on the auantities used, rather than on the acreage irrigated. A report from New Mexico shows that farmers who paid according to the quantities they received used twenty-one per cent, less than others under the same canal paying a flat rate per acre and used what they wanted. A test in Idaho showed that those paying for the quantities received used twenty-nine per cent, less than those paying the acreage rate.” The Federal government is carrying on experiments to get at the actual water necessities of different crops under different conditions to establish the minimum quantities which must be supplied to plants, making determinations of the quantities of water actually used in the processes of growth. To these quantities must be added enough to supply the losses which are unavoidable under field conditions. The government is attacking the same problem from the other direction. Fields similar in other respects are being served with different quantities of water to determine what quantities give the best results. Secretary Wilson added: “The damage resulting from losses of water from canals and from use of too much water is not limited to a reduction in the area reclaimed. The surplus water is actually reducing the area now farmed by swamping fertile lands, and bringing to the surface such quantities of alkali as to kill all useful vegetation. We are studying means of relieving these conditions, both in this country and in the older countries, where the damage has been of long standing, and are making experiments along the same line in a number of places throughout the West. We have also employed a drainage engineer, whose entire time is occupied in advising communities as to methods and plans for relieving wet and alkali lands. There is a peculiar reason why this work should be done by the government. The water which ruins a man’s farm does not, as a rule, come from his own wasteful use, but from some canal over which he has no control, or from lands lying higher than his own, so that he is in a measure helpless to prevent the injury. No improvement in his own practice can ward off the damage. For this reason this work belongs especially to the public, just as does the enforcement of quarantine regulations.”