Tag Archives: irrigation

November 3, 2015: AWWA Opens Office in India; 1888: Irrigation of the Arid West

November 3, 2015:  AWWA Opens Office in India. “The office of AWWAIndia, part of AWWA’s vision of “A better world through better water,” is up and running, signing up members and developing strategies to improve drinking water quality for the nation’s 1.29 billion people.

The office, located in Mumbai, is the headquarters of AWWA’s first international community outside North America and is staffed by three paid workers and five volunteers.

“Our volunteers are passionate about water,” said Gaurav Sood, the office’s executive manager.  “I feel their energy and they are very upbeat. They feel that, ‘Yes, we can make a difference.’”

A launch event was held Nov. 3 in Mumbai and included dinner, cocktails and keynote addresses by Dr. Mrs. Malini Shankar, Addl. Chief Secretary, Department of Environment, Government of Maharashtra, who spoke on “Integration of Water & Sanitation” and Dr. Harish Shetty, a social psychiatrist whose talk was entitled “Blood Red Waters — Drought, Farmers and Suicides.” About 90 water professionals attended.

On Nov. 5 a mini-launch was held in Hyderabad – about 440 miles southeast of Mumbai — where the town’s water supply and sewer board hosted a two-hour get-together to discuss India’s water issues and how it can partner with AWWA.

Among AWWAIndia’s priorities is to develop training for water operators and managers and talk with utilities, consultants, end-users, government leaders and others about certificate training programs.”

This photo, taken in June of 1866, shows the location of the 100th Meridian west of Omaha. The 100th Meridian is an imaginary longitudinal line, which runs from the Dakotas south through Texas, that roughly separates the moist East from the arid West.

November 3, 1888: Article in Engineering News–Irrigation in the Arid Region of the United States. “An answer to some of the wild hopes regarding irrigation in the arid regions west of the Mississippi, and an answer also to the wilder misstatements regarding the feasibility of the project, is found in the letter of Maj. J.A. Powell, Director of the Geological Survey, to Secretary [of the Interior] William F. Vilas.

Maj. Powell says that the area of the arid region is about 1,300,000 sq. miles, and that 1,000,000 sq. miles of this only need water to make it productive. At $30 per acre, a moderate estimate for irrigated land, this area would represent the enormous aggregate value of $19,200,000,000. Over this region the annual precipitation ranges from 5 ins. or less on the driest plains, to 30 ins. on the mountains, with an average for the whole region of about 15 ins. If this could be applied to the land, there would be about double the amount required during the growing season….

Under such adverse conditions it is manifest that only a small portion of the rainfall of the region can be made to serve the farmer, and that there is no solid foundation for the opinion sometimes expressed that the greater part of our arid west will ultimately be reclaimed. In 1880 less than 1 per cent of its arable portion had been supplied with irrigation water, and it is not believed that with the most elaborate irrigation works this can be increased to more than 20 per cent….

…the 15 per cent…as capable of improvement by irrigation, while it is now valueless, exceeds by about 20,000 sq. miles the combined area of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and is well worth adding to the revenue producing territory of this country.”

Reference:  “Irrigation in the Arid Region of the United States.” Engineering News. 20 (November 3, 1888): 351.

Commentary: This extraordinary document predates the enormous irrigation projects planned and executed by the federal government through the Bureau of Reclamation. Just think of the vision and fortitude that was necessary to make these dreams a reality.

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August 18, 1894: Desert Land (Carey) Act Signed

Milner Dam, 1905. One of the first Carey Act projects in Idaho, Library of Congress.

August 18, 1894: Desert Land (Carey) Act Signed to Encourage Irrigation in the West.       On August 18, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Desert Land Act of 1894, better known as the Carey Act. Sponsored by Wyoming Senator Joseph M. Carey, the Act was meant to improve the success rate for the settlement of the public lands. The law specifically addressed the millions upon millions of acres in the western states that required irrigation for productive farming—the so-called ‘arid lands.’

The Act authorized the Federal Land Office to transfer up to a million acres of arid public lands to individual states that established approved reclamation programs. States would cover expenses by charging fees and selling the land at nominal prices, with the real incentive being the expected increase in tax revenue.

Development companies proposed, designed, and built suitable irrigation projects. They profited by selling water to the settlers, at rates determined in negotiations with the state reclamation office. The development company did not ‘own’ the land itself—technically. However, these firms could place liens on the land and the associated water rights to protect their capital investments so the effect was basically the same.

In 1908 through 1910, developers initiated forty new Carey Act project in Idaho. No other state approaches Idaho in the exploitation of the Carey Act and later related legislation. By one reckoning, 60% of all U.S. acreage irrigated by Carey Act projects is in Idaho.

July 18, 1911: Death by Cholera in the U.S.; 1908: Irrigating the Nile Valley

Quarantine in NYC Harbor in 1879

July 18, 1911: Cholera Kills Boy; Eighth Death Here. New York Times Headline. “The sixth death from cholera since the arrival in this port from Naples of the steamship Moltke, thirteen days ago, occurred yesterday at Swineburne Island. The victim was Francesco Frando 14 years old.

Dr. A.H. Doty, the Health Officer for the Port of New York stated, “The great thing in fighting cholera is to isolate each case as soon as it is suspected, and, secondly, to take care that there is no local infection, like the contamination of the water supply, in the place where the suspected cases are isolated. That is why I detained all the passengers of the Moltke, although at the time there were no absolute cases of cholera among them. I let the crew take the vessel back to Europe, but refused to allow any of them to come ashore.”

Alvah H. Doty

Commentary: Quarantine was the best weapon against cholera in the late 19th and early 20th century. Obviously, chlorination of drinking water had not taken hold across the U.S. by 1911. A few short years later and it would be used as treatment in the majority of U.S. municipal water supplies. Doty was an interesting historical character. His obituary can be found at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~quarantine/dotyobit.htm.

Update July 18, 2017: Note the care and attention given to eight deaths from cholera at the New York port of entry near the turn of the 20th century. Today, the world shrugs off the news that there have been 300,000 cases of cholera in Yemen and 10,000 deaths from cholera in Haiti. What has happened to our humanity?

Nile River Irrigation

July 18, 1908: Engineering Record article. The Nile Irrigation Question. “The Nile Valley, from the great lakes of Central Africa on the south to the Mediterranean Sea on the north, is throughout, if watered, an essentially cotton country, and having in view the threatened shortage in the world’s future supply of one of its great necessities, and the large share of America in its provision in the past, it will be interesting to note what has been done and is being proposed in Egypt and the Sudan by means of irrigation to supplement the present supply of cotton and to meet the growing demand. In Egypt, at present, nearly all other cultivation is gradually yielding to that of cotton, notwithstanding the greater amount of hard work which the latter requires among a race to which it is by no means congenial.

The Nile system consists of the White Nile, which originates in the larger group of Central African lakes, the Victoria Nyanza, the Choga, the Albert Edward and the Albert Nyanza; and the Blue Nile, which is the largest source of supply, draining the mountains of Abyssinia. These two meet at Khartoum, the river thence flowing to the north being the Nile proper. It is on the latter that the principal conservation works have been and are now being erected, while on the White and Blue Niles, especially on the former, the work of the future will no doubt be chiefly concentrated.

As upper and lower Egypt, most of which is practically rainless, are dependent on the branches for their water, the Nile proper being merely a channel for its conveyance, and as much of the water is lost by spills and evaporation on the White Nile, it is a fortunate circumstance that Great Britain, with its large Indian irrigation experience, has even a greater control over the Sudan and the upper country through which the river flows than over Egypt itself. Hence not only will the former be benefited by direct irrigation on now unprofitable lands, but the latter will also receive more water by works undertaken under British initiation and financial help, on the White Nile.”

Commentary: Note the reference to “lazy” Egyptian farmers and how wonderful it was that British innovation was helping to save their less fortunate and inferior brethren. Racism and colonialism were dominant themes in some engineering writings from this period.

June 12, 1913: What Is the Matter with Irrigation?

June 12, 1913: Engineering News editorial. “What Is the Matter with Irrigation? As those of our readers familiar with the conditions of engineering work in the far West are only too well aware, irrigation enterprises are, comparatively speaking, at a standstill. This is not because of lack of opportunity. There are still plenty of places where, by the construction of reservoirs that could store the spring floods, land which is now worthless desert could be converted into fertile and profitable fields.

But when the enthusiast who sees the possibilities of such a situation goes to a banking house in the East and asks it to finance the work, he is met with a reception compared to which a journey of polar exploration would be tropical. It will not do to blame the banker for this, because he knows by experience that irrigation bonds are today practically unsalable. Not a few banking houses have suffered in purse and in reputation because of the irrigation enterprises which they have financed in the past. It is worth while asking, therefore, why irrigation is unprofitable. It is true that many irrigation projects have been run by irresponsible men who have sought merely to sell stocks and bonds with little care whether the purchasers ever received any return or not. This, however, is only a part of the explanation why irrigation securities are shunned by investors. Wild-cat mining stocks innumerable have been sold in all parts of the country; but a valuable mine or valuable mining stock is not thereby rendered impossible of sale.

The trouble with irrigation enterprises is that even when they have been honestly and intelligently financed and managed, the final result has usually been either a loss to the investors or a return too small on the whole to pay for the risk and trouble. There are, of course, a few notable exceptions to this general rule. We are speaking in a large way now, and dealing not with particular enterprises but with the general run of well managed irrigation projects under private enterprise.”

Commentary: The inability to privately finance large irrigation projects in the West ultimately led the federal government to lead the way in this effort.

April 11, 1956: Central Utah Project Authorization

The Bonneville Project was just one component of the Central Utah Project

April 11, 1956: The Central Utah Project (CUP) was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act. “The CUP is a water resource development project that provides water supplies to the central portion of the state of Utah. It was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act of April 11, 1956, with planning and construction initially by the Bureau of Reclamation (“BuRec”). The CUP diverts a portion of Utah’s 23 percent share of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River to originally a 12 county area within Utah …. Project features divert water from the southern slopes of the Uinta Mountains and the Colorado River to the Wasatch Front through a collection system consisting of a series of aqueducts, tunnels and dams.

The CUP was considered by local farmers and civic leaders as far back as the turn of the century. In 1902, these leaders began investigating the Strawberry Valley Project, and subsequently it was one of the first in the nation to be constructed in 1905 under the newly passed Reclamation Act of 1903. The original study envisioned a farsighted project that would divert waters from Uinta Mountain streams as far east as the Yellowstone River for storage in a reservoir situated in the Strawberry Valley. The water would then flow by tunnel through the Wasatch Divide into the headwaters of the Spanish Fork River. By 1919 local municipal, agricultural and state leaders began planning for the expansion of the Strawberry Valley Project to obtain additional water supplies. Between 1939 and 1945 the BuRec investigated means of developing additional Colorado River water. In 1945, BuRec studies identified and first named the CUP in a document entitled “Project Planning Interim Report.”

The state of Utah and its congressional delegation worked diligently to gain authorization of the CUP and were successful in having the CUP, Initial Phase, authorized for construction as a participating project under the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act.”

March 6, 1913: Irrigation for Babylon

0306 Irrigation for BabylonMarch 6, 1913: Engineering News article. The Reclamation of Ancient Babylonia By Irrigation. by Edgar J. Banks. “‘Egypt is the gift of the Nile,’ is a true saying and as old as the history of Herodotus; but the Nile is not the only river which has given a great and famous country to the world. The Tigris and the Euphrates, rising in the mountains of Armenia, have carried down and deposited much of the best of that country at their mouths. It was thus Babylonia came into existence.

It is estimated that the Persian Gulf is growing shorter, or that Babylonia is growing longer, at the rate of a mile every 30 years. There was a time when the Persian Gulf extended northward about 250 miles farther than it does now, or to Bagdad. There, at the city of the Caliphs, the alluvial plain of Babylonia begins, and the rolling, stony Assyria ends. The alluvial Babylonian plain is one of the most fertile lands of the world.

As far back as Babylonian history goes, and excavations in the ruins of the Mesopotamian cities have yielded a mass of records of some 6000 years ago, the fertility of Babylonia was maintained by means of an extensive and intricate system of irrigation canals. Great canals, as large as rivers, ran parallel with the Tigris and Euphrates, and scores of others intersected the valley, connecting the two streams. There was scarcely a corner of the entire country which was not well watered; and more than that, the canals served as waterways for the transportation of the crops.”

Reference: Banks, Edgar J. 1913. “The Reclamation of Ancient Babylonia By Irrigation.” Engineering News article 69:10(March 6, 1913): 468.

0306 Map of Babylonia

November 3, 2015: AWWA Opens Office in India; 1888: Irrigation of the Arid West

1103 AWWAIndiaNovember 3, 2015: AWWA Opens Office in India. “The office of AWWAIndia, part of AWWA’s vision of “A better world through better water,” is up and running, signing up members and developing strategies to improve drinking water quality for the nation’s 1.29 billion people.

The office, located in Mumbai, is the headquarters of AWWA’s first international community outside North America and is staffed by three paid workers and five volunteers.

“Our volunteers are passionate about water,” said Gaurav Sood, the office’s executive manager. “I feel their energy and they are very upbeat. They feel that, ‘Yes, we can make a difference.’”

A launch event was held Nov. 3 in Mumbai and included dinner, cocktails and keynote addresses by Dr. Mrs. Malini Shankar, Addl. Chief Secretary, Department of Environment, Government of Maharashtra, who spoke on “Integration of Water & Sanitation” and Dr. Harish Shetty, a social psychiatrist whose talk was entitled “Blood Red Waters — Drought, Farmers and Suicides.” About 90 water professionals attended.

On Nov. 5 a mini-launch was held in Hyderabad – about 440 miles southeast of Mumbai — where the town’s water supply and sewer board hosted a two-hour get-together to discuss India’s water issues and how it can partner with AWWA.

Among AWWAIndia’s priorities is to develop training for water operators and managers and talk with utilities, consultants, end-users, government leaders and others about certificate training programs.”

This photo, taken in June of 1866, shows the location of the 100th Meridian west of Omaha. The 100th Meridian is an imaginary longitudinal line, which runs from the Dakotas south through Texas, that roughly separates the moist East from the arid West.

This photo, taken in June of 1866, shows the location of the 100th Meridian west of Omaha. The 100th Meridian is an imaginary longitudinal line, which runs from the Dakotas south through Texas, that roughly separates the moist East from the arid West.

November 3, 1888: Article in Engineering News–Irrigation in the Arid Region of the United States. “An answer to some of the wild hopes regarding irrigation in the arid regions west of the Mississippi, and an answer also to the wilder misstatements regarding the feasibility of the project, is found in the letter of Maj. J.A. Powell, Director of the Geological Survey, to Secretary [of the Interior] William F. Vilas.

Maj. Powell says that the area of the arid region is about 1,300,000 sq. miles, and that 1,000,000 sq. miles of this only need water to make it productive. At $30 per acre, a moderate estimate for irrigated land, this area would represent the enormous aggregate value of $19,200,000,000. Over this region the annual precipitation ranges from 5 ins. or less on the driest plains, to 30 ins. on the mountains, with an average for the whole region of about 15 ins. If this could be applied to the land, there would be about double the amount required during the growing season….

Under such adverse conditions it is manifest that only a small portion of the rainfall of the region can be made to serve the farmer, and that there is no solid foundation for the opinion sometimes expressed that the greater part of our arid west will ultimately be reclaimed. In 1880 less than 1 per cent of its arable portion had been supplied with irrigation water, and it is not believed that with the most elaborate irrigation works this can be increased to more than 20 per cent….

…the 15 per cent…as capable of improvement by irrigation, while it is now valueless, exceeds by about 20,000 sq. miles the combined area of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and is well worth adding to the revenue producing territory of this country.”

Reference:  “Irrigation in the Arid Region of the United States.” Engineering News. 20 (November 3, 1888): 351.

Commentary: This extraordinary document predates the enormous irrigation projects planned and executed by the federal government through the Bureau of Reclamation. Just think of the vision and fortitude that was necessary to make these dreams a reality.