WATER IS LIFE... THE SHOVEL IS DIVINE
FROM DITCHES TO PIPES
THE USE AND CONTROL OF WATER
CONTROLS THE FUTURE
The earliest settlers in Leeds used innovation and hard work to divert water from Leeds Creek to their homes, fields, and industry. The town pioneers carefully studied the lay of the land between the creek and the settlement and selected a route that would transport the water to Leeds. The lowly hand shovel was their "Divine Tool". Digging ditches with pick and shovel and teams of horses across the rocky terrain was hard and seemingly endless work. Ingenuity was required in keeping the path of the ditch in a downhill direction to maintain water flow. Building a good ditch system took clever minds, strong backs, and great determination.
The Leeds [Irrigation] Water Company, LWC, was established in the late 1800s to legally secure and organize rights to use local water, a historically controversial and difficult task in the arid West.
In pioneer times, at the home of M. E. Paris, the ditch had a stream-like appearance as it entered northeastern Leeds. Later in 2009, this scene was located at the intersection of Vista Avenue and Main Street.
The main ditch carried Leeds Creek water to the northeastern edge of the town. From that point, ditches conveyed the water to town lots and on to the nearby agriculture fields. Prized lots in Leeds were those that fronted the ditch, especially the lots closest to the beginning of the ditch, where pollutants from water use upstream were reduced.
The pioneer method of irrigation, flooding agricultural areas via an open ditch system, was sustained in Leeds until the 21st century. Historically, dirt ditches bordered Main Street until they were replaced with concrete lining in 1957. The “ditch” was a favorite play area for children and a place for socializing during the summer. But the “ditch” was also dangerous. Over the years, tragedy struck; two children drowned in the open ditches.
In 2006, The Leeds [Irrigation] Water Company, also known as ‘the irrigation company’, replaced the open ditches with underground pipes and pressurized the irrigation water to increase community safety and efficient water management.
Ready in 2009: Ned Sullivan and David Stirling are farmers, irrigators, and direct descendants of the settlers of Leeds. They are standing on the Leeds Ditch head-gate at the point of diversion on Leeds Creek, where the water is conveyed to the pressurized irrigation system.
CULINARY DRINKING WATER
In 1954, the Leeds Domestic Waterusers Association, LDWA, made a bold move when they sought to remedy the obvious health & safety hazards resulting from the open ditch. LDWA borrowed $50,000.00 to build a 9-mile pipeline to bring drinking water down to Leeds from a spring high above the town, located at the base of Pine Valley Mountain. Until that time, the townspeople's drinking water had been piped and drawn directly from the open Leeds irrigation water ditch.
With the $50,000.00 funding and the men of Leeds supplying much of the back-breaking labor in laying the pipeline, Leeds citizens began to receive clean drinking water delivered in a secure system in January 1956.
Susan Savage, born in 1946 and a fourth generation member of a Leeds family, recalls an arduous method of accessing water: "As a child, my family hauled drinking water in large metal barrels from a spring near the CCC Camp. We did not have piped drinking in our home at the north end of town until the 1950s.
Ray Beal, born in 1937, recollects another method of obtaining drinking water: "As a boy, when the ditch water was too dirty to drink, Mom sent me down a 90-foot ladder into a mine shaft to bring up a bucket of water. The open mine shaft was near our farm on the north end of town. The mine water was usable; or at least we thought so in those days."
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