[Tagging] Drain vs ditch

Tod Fitch tod at fitchdesign.com
Fri Jan 11 18:09:28 UTC 2019

> On Jan 11, 2019, at 8:36 AM, ael <law_ence.dev at ntlworld.com> wrote:
> As a native speaker, I do not recognise "canal" as appropriate for
> irrigation. That is not to say that some canals may also be used
> partly for irrigation.
> But the phrase "irrigation ditch" is common and understood.  Bear in
> mind that the UK is mainly a fairly wet place, so the need for
> substantial irrigation is not high except in some special cases.  The
> unqualified word "ditch" would normally be understood as an artificial
> unlined and usually small watercourse. But also, in certain contexts,
> for a historic trench acting as a defense or fence, not necessarily
> containing water.
> That seems to accord with a the sub tag irrigation=yes on ditches -
> and maybe on other waterways if that is one of the uses/functions.
> ael


In the desert where I was raised the cotton fields were surrounded with “irrigation ditches”, or “ditches” for short. The fields were watered from the ditches by either syphon hoses or sluice gates.

Later, when working on road projects, I found that the low areas on the sides of roads (often used as “side borrow” areas during construction of the roadway) were formally called “drainage ditches” or just “ditches” for short.

So to me a ditch is simply a channel dug to move water.

But I am an American and our terms diverge somewhat from UK usage. So I looked it up in my older paper version of the OED to find the first two definition are “1. An excavation narrow in proportion to its length; the trench or fosse of a fortification, etc.”. “2. Such a hollow dug out to receive or conduct water, esp. to carry off the surface drainage of a road or field, etc.”

Based on the second, I can see the reason why some would conflate “drainage ditch” with simply “ditch”. But I don’t see from this where even in UK usage a ditch has to be for drainage. It is simply a long narrow excavation and, in the waterway sense, dug to conduct water from one place to another.


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