Progress of Irrigation.
Irrigation is the most marked feature of the agricultural development of the present day. History, it is said, repeals itself ; it is apparently so, as regards irrigation. After the lapse of centuries we are reproducing in other lands and under other conditions the great irrigation undertakings of old Babylon and ancient Egypt. If with all modern appliances our engineers do as well as those of 4000 years ago, they will be doing remarkably well.
Ten years ago the question of irrigation had begun to attract general interest. The amount of land which has since then been brought under a more or lest perfected system of irrigation is immense, and new projects and new schemes for bringing the precious water on to countless more acres are every day discussed and carried out in California alone, but lately in Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Utah and elsewhere. It is curious to observe how each new company in succession describes the land offered for sale as fruit land. Little or no mention is made of its suitability far farming purposes—it is fruit, fruit, nothing but fruit land. To an ordinary indvidual the only explanation for this appears to be that as there is still a widespread belief in the high profits attainable from fruit growing, the various companies, by calling the land fruit land, are thereby furnished with some show of justification for the high prices asked by them for such lanrl.
Hut irrigation schemes have not been confined to this country. Some five years ago the Chaffey Bros., then of Ontario, San Bernardino county, men who had made a decided success of their irrigation undertaking there, not apparently for themselves alone, but also for their numerous constitutents, conceived the idea of going to Australia and there establishing irrigation colonies on a basis like those they had so successfully undertaken in California. It is interesting to observe the development and note the success which has attended this undertaking—a success which Messrs. Chaffey themselves would acknowledge is in a great measure due to their perfected system of advertising in Great Britain. Messrs. Chaffey obtained from the government of Victoria, Australia, some four years ago, a grant of $00,000 acres under certain stipulated conditions as to the sum they were to spend upon it in irrigation works. The soil is similar, though claimed to be superior to the best California soil. The climate conditions are the same as those of the San Joaquin valley and the never-failing supplier of water is the great Murray river.
Messrs. Chaffey’s colonies at Mildence and Renmark are not advantageously situated as regards transport and markets. Melbourne and Adelaide are the only two accessable cities of any im|>ortance. The distance front Melbourne to Mildence is 374 miles, of which 219 is traversed by rail, ninety by stage and sixty-five by river boat. To Adelaide the journey consists of too miles by rail and four days by river boat. Mildence has a population of 5000 and Renmark of some 1500. Public institutions, schools and colleges abound, and the colonies are increasing very rapidly.
These results have been obtained in three years, and they apeak well for the energy of the promoters ; expenditure of money has not been wanted. An agricultural college and institute, a single wing in each of which cost $25,000 anil $15,Ooo respectively, as well as a large hospital, have been erected by the company, whose monthly pay sheet at Mildence alone is said to amount to $$0,000. Looked at purely from an intending settler’s point of view, fruit growing if successful everywhere should be so in Australia. Notwithstanding the transport difficulty the cost of carriage for fruit to either Melbourne or Adelaide and consequently to the coast does not exceed two cents a pound (the cost of transport from California to New York), and is likely shortly to be considerably reduced.
Though there is some local market (the imports of fruit annually amounting to $3,500,000, and the local price of raisins being from nine to fifteen cents a pound and other fruit high in proportion), the great markets for Australia will be England. Europe and perhaps America. Situated as it is at the antipodes, Australia would ship fresh fruit to comparatively empty markets, and consequently obtain high prices. To encourage the new agricultural industry the government of Victoria grants a bounty averaging $15 per acre on every acre put under fruit. In addition to this the following bounties are paid on tlie weight of fruit grown : Raisins. $25 per ton ; prunes and figs, $15 per ton, and $20 more on every ton dried ; apricots, almonds, oranges, lemons, etc., fifty cents on each case exported. A heavy bounty is offered to fruit exporters and to any one preserving fruit. These are solid inducements to settlers. Messrs. Chaffey Bros, have advertised their land as no company has ever done before. They have 250 sub-agents and several traveling agents in the United Kingdom. They have sold during twelve months 18,000 acres of land, the price of which originally was $100 an acre and upwards is now $200 an acre. Altogether the Australian irrigation colonists bid fair to hold their own against all competitors.