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.
Below the bifurcation the river of Babylon was again divided into several streams, and indeed the most famous of all the ancient canals was the Arakhat (Archous of the Greeks and Serrat and Nil of the Arabs), which left that river just above Babylon and ran due east to the Tigris, irrigating all the central part of the Jezireh, and sending down a branch through Nippur and Erech to rejoin the Euphrates a little above the modern Nasrieh.
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.
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