12/4/2012 1:15:00 PM Editorial: Big steps by Verde ditches benefit all
Agriculture has always been a vital part of survival in the Verde Valley. For the past 1,000 years, irrigation ditches have been a vital part of the Verde Valley’s agriculture.
That is why the ditches continue to operate in a very official capacity to this day. The oldest ditches created by white settlers in the Verde Valley have been around since the Civil War. That long history, however, may also be why there have been few changes in how ditches operate over the years. If it works, don’t fix it, obviously.
So it is a huge advancement in the ongoing water-use conversation that there are decisions being made to create more accuracy and better regulation at the head gates of the Verde Valley’s ditches.
The new automated Diamond S head gates alone could keep an extra 2 cubic feet of water in the Verde River.
There are over 30 diversions on Oak Creek, Beaver Creek, Clear Creek and the Verde River. Ditch associations have not always gotten along with those who are not irrigating, especially those environmental groups and other residents who blame the ditches when the river disappears.
In reality, ditch companies should have just as much interest in keeping the rivers and creeks flowing as any environmentalist does. Those ditches that have come on board with the technology of new head gates are helping their own situation as well as their neighbors’.
Unfortunately, not all ditches in the Verde Valley have seen the benefits of the automated head gates. It would benefit all if every ditch boss could be as forward thinking. “All” includes members of each ditch company.
In Camp Verde, the agreement is leading to funding to general improvements for the ditches involved, not just more accurate water flows.
With irrigation water feeding everything from large crops to small yards, the ditches remain the lifeblood of the Verde Valley. They are also a center point of water rights debates in Arizona, always one of our biggest political concerns.
The ditches are important to all, and the new communication and understanding of responsibility for the watershed will also benefit all.