Mesa’s Orange Groves in the City

Not too long ago, when you were young (if you are claiming still to be middle-aged), there were thousands of acres of orange groves in Mesa, Arizona. When the city pushed into the groves, some of the trees were left to grow in the center strips of roads. In some communities, the houses were planned among the groves, so that each house has 5 or 6 trees surrounding it.

irrigation valve in Mesa

irrigation valve in Mesa

To water the groves, the city used irrigation systems. These systems are slightly smaller than manholes, have a semi-circle of cement around them, and appear on lawns, median strips, and public parks in Mesa. Depending on the time of year, the irrigation systems begin to bubble water out of them until the area surrounding them is flooded. It then stops pumping water and the trees soak it up.

The first time I saw a home lawn flooded in Mesa, I wondered what was happening. Now you can track the irrigation by the noise of the birds who are enjoying baths and drinking water before the sun rises to crisp up the grass.

Most modern houses have tiny watering tubes directed only at the

Irrigation valve releasing water

Irrigation valve releasing water

growing thing that needs it. But these flood-irrigation systems don’t waste water. The water is measured through a series of dams in the snow-covered mountains of the state, sent through canals. The water that falls from the sky is the hardest working water anywhere in the world. It is chased through dams, makes electricity, released into canals to help irrigation. I thought that once it was pumped into the urban orange groves it was left to sink into the ground and lost. But it isn’t. It’s sucked up again and put back in canals.

orange trees in road median, Mesa AZ

orange trees in road median, Mesa AZ

Meanwhile, those white-painted tree trunks? They protect the trunk from sunburn. Citrus trees aren’t native to the Sonoran desert, and the dark trunks overheat and crack in the sun. Painting them white prevents that.

—Photographs and story by Quinn McDonald, a certified creativity coach and writer in the Phoenix area. See more at QuinnCreative.com

(c) All rights reserved, 2008