Transcript for The Miracle of Water, segment 02 of 11


The great American West, settled by adventurers, trappers and gold-seekers, and then in the eighteen forties, fifties and sixties by farmers and ranchers, people seeking a new life, attracted by free land. Life was hard for the settlers. Farming wasn't the same as it was in the East. The land was dry and the climate often harsh. Rain needed for crops came too soon, too much, or too little, too late. Rainfall could not be counted on to mature crops. The land that seemed to be free proved to be very costly.

But some settlers learned to survive. Hard working farmers began to irrigate. Simple diversions from nearby creeks to soften the ground make plowing easier and bring the crops to maturity. In Utah and California, settlers working together dug ditches and brought water longer distances. They showed others that it could be done. Old wooden flumes, bringing water down from the hills to wash for gold, were sometimes converted to irrigation. Irrigation spread, but only in the best valleys, from Mexico to Canada. Small settlements appeared, living on the brink of disaster, for there were wet and dry years. Sometimes the creeks would go dry in the summer. Even great rivers were reduced to a trickle. There was drought, blowing sand. The promise of the new land, a new life, too often went unfulfilled.