Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 4, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE LETHBRSDGE HERALD 3 Antique irrigation facilities urgently need funds, repairs Weather beaten boards creak under foot and water leaks through old planks piled one on top of another to hold back the flow of the Oldman River a scene indicative of the antiquated condition of the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District facilities. Facilities throughout the entire district are in a similar state which only monev and work can rec- tify And because of a lack of sufficient funds, the employees of the district have been forced to coax patched facilities to provide the water re- quirements for a growing number of water users on an increasing amount of land The planks and cracked concrete comprising the diversion structure at the head of the district's only source of water are doing the job But for how long? "This structure and the rest of the district was built to provide water for the old system of irrigation." says district manager F A Rick Ross. 'IThe introduction of modern irrigation systems and new techniques of applying water has in- creased the demand for water. It has also opened up new areas of land within the district which now can be irrigated." Running a canal full of water provides headaches for all fieldmen in the dis- trict because it requires almost 2 4 h o u r s u r veillance. says Mr. Ross. large open-topped metal trough, supported by wooden stands for about two thirds of the half-mile distance and cement struc- tures, carries the irriga- tion water from the south side of the Oldman River to the waiting canal on the north side. Numerous leaks are testimony to its con- dition The wooden crossbeams whirh hold the trough in place remind a person of a giant railway track. The crossbeams vary in color, indicating a constant repair program to keep the trough in top shape. If any two consecutive beams break, the entire structure could crumble. Following the main canal northeast about 10 miles, a similar but smaller struc- ture of equal vintage is en- countered. This structure allows the water to cross a deep ravine. Approaching this struc- ture from the south, one can visualize a smoking locomotive crossing a turn- of-the-ccntury wooden trestle bridge. "And it is just about as old." says Mr. Ross. WAITING From the east end of this structure, a large, well- kept canal carries the water eastward to waiting users Service to the waiting users is good, says Mr. Ross There is usually no more than a one-day waiting period from the time a man orders water to the time it is ready to be put on his field. He credits the excellent work of the fieldmen who adjust countless water gates to keep the right amount of water running to and through their areas for this good service. When a farmer asks for water, the fieldman has to allow the extra require- ment to enter the area. Also, when a farmer wants to shut off the water to his field, the fieldman must first lower the water in the area the right amount to allow downstream farmers to use it. This form of conserva- tion is desparately needed in the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District because of the constant pressure on the system to move ade- quate amounts of water to all users. A lack of adequate storage facilities also means that the district must rely on a continuous source from the Oldman River to provide the water for the irrigating season. There are two main onstream weak points in the system that will have to be enlarged if the ex- pected increased need for water is realized, says Mr. Ross. These are two inverted siphons, large wooden pipes that transport water through two ravines, using the pressure of the water to push itself from one side to the other They operate completely full and the water passing through them is capable of servicing only slightly more users and land than now under irrigation. Knlargement of any irrigation system means dollars And lots of them. Mr. Ross says the dis- trict has received about from the govern- ment in the past five years for repairing irrigation works. And that doesn't go very far when considering there are 112 miles of canal capable of carrying more than 50 cubic feet of water per second Throughout this distance, there are 316 timber structures, 173 con- crete structures and 184 steel structures. PROBLEM Adding to the upkeep problem under limited financial resources is another 420 miles of canals with a carrying capacity less than 50 cubic feet per second. Along these canals are 2.812 timber structures, 312 cement structures and 851 steel structures. all the structures. 1.- 893 are small turnouts to divert water, drop struc- tures for lowering water levels or checks on the flow of water Repair bills start at for each. The numerous bridges built to allow vehicles to cross the canals cost 000 to each. Repair bills arc also high Some relief is in sight, according to Mr Ross, who expects to spend about million in the next five years for rebuilding irriga- tion works lie says the cost for rebuilding the structure is going to be very high but this high cost will be spread over more users and more acres Kquilization of payments according to the number of acres irrigated will spread ihe cost of rebuilding the district, says Mr. Ross. Savings in manhours: because of a more efficient system, and water, because of rehabilitated irrigation ditches, will be part of the picture. Diversion headgates The structure, right, acts as a diversion for water serving the Monarch district with the upper stream heading south from the main canal, foreground, which proceeds to the left of the pic- ture. The wooden gates, which regulate the flow of the water to the south by controlling the height of water in the main canal, are hand controlled.