The Source: Ditch Water - The Pioneer Gift We Hope Will Keep on Giving

Sep 25, 2015

Students, faculty, and irrigation canal company officials at the spillway out of Logan-Hyde Park Canal, 1896-1913.
Credit USU Digital Exhibits, accessed September 25, 2015,

A lot of people who move to Logan, Utah, from out of state have this moment when they think a water main must have ruptured because there’s a lot of water gushing down the street. Nope. That’s just ditch water and many people have to figure out how to get water from the that ditch to their lawn or vegetable garden and there are no instructions for this.

This episode of The Source is all about irrigation -- the kind that farmers do and the kind that residents of Logan have to do with a system that was designed by the very first settlers to the valley. We’ll talk about what’s changed, what hasn’t and what needs to when it comes to watering your lawn or tomatoes.

Part 1 - Save Water, Eat Your Vegetables

More than 80% of Utah’s diverted water is used for agriculture, but only a small portion of that is for growing vegetables. Most is used for alfalfa and pasture land. The Source’s Ross Chambless looks into how farmers are saving water by simply changing what they grow in an increasingly urban environment.

Part 2 - The Song of Running Irrigation Rivulets

Residential lawns and gardens are not considered agriculture, but when many Utah towns were settled, there was no commercial farming and therefore no distinction. Jennifer Pemberton looks at how leftover pioneer irrigation systems -- still in use in Northern Utah -- muddy the waters between what’s residential, what’s agricultural, and what’s a gift from God.

Part 3 - Wicked Mormon

Kathryn Morse is a professor of history and environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. But many years ago she lived in Logan, Utah, where she studied the canals of the Logan River and wrote a paper called “Nature's Second Course: Water Culture in the Mormon Communities of Cache Valley, Utah, 1860-1916.” She talks about what was particularly Mormon about the pioneering irrigation systems in Northern Utah.

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