The river furnishes water for irrigating the low fields in the vicinity.
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.
The practice of irrigating differs in different places with differences in the quality of the water, the soil, the drainage, &c. As a general rule, when the irrigating season begins in November the water may flow for a fortnight continuously, but subsequent waterings, especially after December, should be shortened gradually in duration till the first week in April, when irrigation should cease.
In the seventeen years ending1896-1897the capital expenditure on such works was Rx.10,954,948, including a sum of Rx.1, 742, 246 paid to the Madras Irrigation Company as the price of the Kurnool-Cuddapah canal, a work which can never be financially productive, but which nevertheless did good service in the famine of1896-1897by irrigating 87,226 acres.