The Irrigation Question.
The gradual contraction of our grain-producing areas, the modern stampede of population to industrial centres, and the constant increase in food consumption are, remarks The Age of Steel, by the force of an economic necessity, making the reclamation of our arid sections a question of vital importance. It is estimated that not less than 100,000,000 acres of arid land on the western domain of the United States are reclaimable by irrigation. Experiments have already proven what can be done where water is obtainable. The experiments made in 1S70 at Greeley, Col., and at Riverside, Cal., have established the success of irrigation. The one produces potatoes and the other oranges, and both in sufficient quantities to be of commercial value. Another Californian colony, by using the same means, produced last year no less than 18,000,000 pounds of raisins. The amount of reclaimable land in one section of the same State is said to be larger than the combined States of Delaware and Maryland.
Official reports state that Arizona, Califorpia, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming have 7,000,000 acres already irrigated and 6,000,000 subject to irrigation.
We can readily see the importance of this movement. It not only adds to the areas of production, but to the business of railroads, merchants, and the wealth of the nation.
We have no sympathy with the pessimistic forecast of a starving world and a planet failing to produce the food of its inhabitants, but it is nevertheless a fact that it can only be by scientific methods of husbandry and in adding the arid areas to our source of food supply that the sustenance of the world’s teeming millions can be secured.
The methods are, of course, dependent on natural conditions. The mountain cascade can be directed in its hurried and descending course ; storm waters falling at times in liquid avalanches on mountain slope and prairie ridge can be secured largely in reservoirs and artificial lakes, and the subterranean streams that have their course far below the crust of the earth can be obtained by the artesian well. The latter process is the more generally available, and is said to be absolutely indispensable in developing the fertility of huge districts in Eastern Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, etc. It is estimated that $5,000,000 would be required to carry out the suggested irrigation of the Northwest. The outcome would, without a doubt, be a success. The securing of means is, of course, an open question, and the danger of monopoly ‘another, but of direct and definite success no practical man can question the advantages, both immediate and prospective, of irrigation. In the way of evidence we add a table of the tax lists of several California counties before and after the application of irrigation :