The river furnishes water for irrigating the low fields in the vicinity.
Beginning shortly below Tekrit there are indications of considerable canalization, both for the purpose of irrigating country remote from the river, and also of shortening the course of the river for navigation.
In early times irrigating canals distributed the waters over the plain, and made it one of the richest countries of the East, so that historians report three crops of wheat to have been raised in Babylonia annually.
The experiment was so far successful that, with incredible difficulty, the two vessels did actually reach Meskene, but the result of the expedition was to show that practically the river could not be used as a high-road of commerce, the continuous rapids and falls during the low season, caused mainly by the artificial obstructions of the irrigating dams, being insurmountable by ordinary steam power, and the aid of hundreds of hands being thus required to drag the vessels up the stream at those points by main force.
A project for irrigating the district south of the mountains between Ponce and Patillas was adopted by the Porto Rican government in 1909.