Happy holiday, happy summer. I’m so glad I’m not living in California where it hasn’t rained in such a long time. History has proven that water is scarce, and valuable, and now with global warming it’s going to be even a more precious commodity. The Daily Beast calls water ‘the new oil’ and the growing stories of corporations buying up water rights around the world are astounding. That favorite candy bar maker of yours (Nestle) is one of the biggest culprits of water hoarding and have stated that water is NOT a fundamental human right.
There’s a brass plaque on the plaza at 300 South and State Street by the theaters “Commemorating the Beginning in America of Modern Irrigation that states “In this vicinity on July 23 and 24, 1847” Mormons made irrigation ditches and diverted the water from City Creek to water their crops. The words are a bit inaccurate because natives had used irrigation systems here and certainly other settlers round the country had coursed water to their benefit. If you Google a map of the Jordan River as it wanders to the Great Salt Lake and pull back a bit on the map, you can see man-made lines leading to the Jordan River. These mostly straight lines are old hand dug ditches from farmers and land owners of long ago. As the new city of salt expanded, canals and irrigation ditches spread like spider webs in the valley to moisten the hungry crops.
Turn the clock forward a century and you would be hard pressed to find one of these water ways. Most of them have been plowed over out of disuse while others have been diverted through giant concrete water pipes under county and city streets. Active canals are worth a lot of money and there are locals who trade water shares for big bucks. Now Salt Lake City has announced that one of the buried canals that wanders from the Brickyard to 800 South is going to become noticeable again after 132 years. Thanks to a push by City Council person Erin Mendenhall, a group of local citizens, plus $1 million from City coffers, an improved walking and biking trail is going to create a very wide path over a weedy forgotten lane between 1000 and 1200 east. The water will still run under it from the Jordan Narrows to City Creek, where it then meets that waterway at Eagle Gate and turns to the Jordan River. There is also a master plan from Salt Lake City to ‘daylight’ City Creek itself and let the waters flow at the surface again. A green watery path would run from downtown, past the Red Iguana 2, parallel the rail road tracks and then to the Jordan River again. It could potentially even be stocked with local trout and be a fresh water source again for birds and wildlife.
Years ago I sold a home that bordered the McClelland canal. The new homeowner was delighted to have a wild space next door to her. She planted vines and veggies and felt like the unused space was an expansion of her own yard. Indeed, many homeowners along the trail have encroached upon the dirt that doesn’t belong to them. The City will come through and measure and decide what is what. But homeowners along this new bike and pedestrian route should rejoice because their property values may have just gone up with a great amenity on their property lines.