NewsMissoula County


Missoula irrigation ditches provide water for nearly a century

irrigation ditch
Posted at 3:14 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 17:37:10-04

MISSOULA - People may notice what look like streams running beside some Missoula roads.

But the water is actually part of the Missoula irrigation ditch system which has been serving people for almost 100 years.

But what is an irrigation ditch and how important are they to the Garden City?

“Water is more valuable than gold,” said Jon Turner of Turner Farms.

The water that flows in the ditches from the end of April until October is like gold to Missoula’s agriculture community.

“The ditches provide water for not only greenhouses and gardens they provide irrigation water to irrigate crops that feed livestock and crops like wheat and barley,” Missoula Irrigation Ditch commissioner and Pink Grizzly owner Shane Clouse.

The water that starts flowing from the Clark Fork River is needed to keep places like Turner Farms and the Pink Grizzly greenhouse up and running.

“So if we didn't have any way to irrigate our crops, all of those crops would die and it would cause a major not only financial hardship, but probably a disruption in the food chain as well,” Clouse explained.

“A lot of folks perception is that we don't need an irrigation ditch," said Clouse. "We can just drill another well. Well, there is a finite amount of freshwater on our planet and if we deplete all of our aquifers they actually can run dry.”

Missoula has relied on irrigation ditches for nearly a century.

“You can't mess with ditches," Turner told MTN News. "That's just that's the way it is. And we depend on it which I mean...I'm glad the rules are that way because we utilize it and it is critical for us.”