Water a scarce commodity in desert town

Let's concentrate on water, or the lack of it, for a few minutes. We'd better make that thought a daily exercise in Dayton and the whole state of Nevada too.

In Dayton's earliest days, there wasn't any reason you couldn't camp by or carry a bucket of water out of the Carson River. There were few wells, as anyone knows who tries to dig a hole in most places, it's tough digging. Dayton soil is permeated with cobblestones.

Not until 1857 when the Rose Ditch was dug by the Chinese (brought here to dig the ditch) was there an ample supply of water in Dayton. Gold Canyon miners needed water to work the placer gold during dry years. Later, water from the ditch helped operate some stamp mills and provided a town water supply. As a result, Dayton has a great historical Chinese background.

At one time, there were at least 23 mills running in Dayton that depended on the Carson River's water resource. The river was used to transport timbers and cordwood to Dayton, most often used in Virginia City mines. There were a series of small dams built along the river from Empire through the Carson River Canyon to Dayton to supply mills that dotted the area.

You have to realize there was a healthy flow of water in the Carson River then. It's only been since the population explosion, along with climate changes, that the river has been reduced to no water at times.

Climate changes and the demand for water make our water supply in Nevada precious. I don't want to sound as if it's dooms day, but we had better get used to showering with a friend if the present trend continues.

Nevada has always been a dry state. Nothing has changed except less water for current demands. When planning a new front yard, folks should entertain xeriscape as an alternative to grass. I love my garden but have replaced sprinklers with soaker hoses so I don't waste water.

The Rose Ditch was used as Dayton's water supply until the 1970s. There were still very few wells and when the ditch failed from time to time, buckets of water were carried from the wells around town. Imagine carrying water to do your dishes and as late as the 1970s. Please keep the lack of water supplies in your thoughts when you encourage growth in the Dayton Valley.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. It's also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. It is open during the week upon request and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check out the Web site: daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome.

• Ruby McFarland is a board member of the Dayton Historical Society, a docent at the museum and has lived in Dayton since 1987.


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