Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/168

This page has been validated.

tricts already organized are meeting with bitter opposition from large land-owners who do not wish to sell, nor to pay higher taxes upon more valuable because more fruitful land. The average farmer with his hundred or five hundred acres, where crops fail one year in three or two in five, is compelled to have water or become bankrupt. The owner of fifty or a hundred thousand acres pastures cattle there and makes a living that suits him. If the small farmers form an irrigation district, the cattle baron is apt to fight it on general principles, and if they outvote him and include any of his land in the taxable area, he fights them to the end. Several of the most promising district ditches of California are lying unfinished at the present time because of the stubborn opposition of the large land-owners, some of them living in Europe.

Private ownership of irrigation canals exists more or less in every county of California. It is too soon to decide the comparative cost of water under the two systems, but the logic of the situation requires supervision of private enterprises by either the State or the General Government. The danger in many private schemes is the sale of more water than can be supplied in seasons of drought, and the consequent loss of crops planted in the expectation of receiving an abundance. There is a golden mean between this extreme and the other, now less frequent than formerly, of claiming ten times as much water as can be used and allowing it to go to waste. One of the greatest corporate irrigation enterprises in the United States is in Merced County. The late Charles Crocker, of San Francisco, was the leading stockholder. Three and a half million dollars has now been spent upon a fifty-mile canal from the Merced River, with a hundred and fifty miles of lesser ditches; a giant reservoir, Lake Yosemite, covering a square mile thirty feet deep, and the purchase of large tracts of land. The company now has water to irrigate six hundred thousand acres. The carrying capacity of the main canal is not less than four thousand cubic feet per second. Colonies are springing up along the line of the canal, and thousands of acres have been planted to crops that justify irrigation.

A still better illustration of what private enterprise has done in this field is shown in the Kern region. Seven hundred miles of large irrigating ditches have been dug in this imperial county, which contains more than five million acres. The annual rainfall is from three to five inches, so that irrigation is absolutely necessary. Thirty large canals have been taken out of Kern River, which rises in the highest part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The most famous of these canals is the Calloway, eighty feet wide on the bottom and one hundred and twenty feet wide at the top, seven feet in depth, and usually full to within a few