In honour of World Water Day I offer this for you to ponder on.
It was written by Ken Gibson who farmed in the Enfield District in North Otago and published his memories in a book, Days Gone By.
We made holes with post hole diggers. We dug wells. We made dams. We carted water from what wells we had on the farm. The cows stood and drank the water as fast as we could lift it to the surface.
We were not alone. With one or two exceptions, the farms between the Waiareka Creek and the Kakanui river were without good supplies of water. It was virtually a risk to stok the farm up because when the dry and heat came on we couldn’t give the animals a drink.
We sledged, we bucketed, we drayed, we truckes, we pumped water to try and get ahead of it. There was never enough until 1957 came, but that is another story.
The other story was the development of rural water schemes. The first in New Zealand was built in 1956 by farmers in the Windsor District, among whom was my father in law. The Enfield scheme was opened the following year and it was greeted as eagerly by farmers of that era as irrigation is today.
Before the advent of rural water schemes, it wasn’t only the land and stock which were short of water, houses were reliant on rain too and with an average of 20 inches a year that was a scarce commodity.
Even when the rural water schemes were introduced there wasn’t a lot to spare for houses and gardens because stock water was the priority.
One unexpected bonus of irrigation has been enough water for gardens. My mother in law established her plantings by carrying buckets of water to plants. My farmer rigged up a couple of k-lines for our garden so it’s mostly watered with the turn of a tap.