Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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From the time Los Angeles was first founded in 1769, residents had depended upon the LA River for water, and built canals to irrigate fields. But as the city grew, it became apparent that the small meandering river could not meet demands. Irish immigrant William Mulholland went to work for the Los Angeles City Water Company as a ditch tender. When he became superintendent at age 31, Mulholland began to search for a new water supply.

Eaton's IdeaIn 1904 Fred Eaton and JB Lippincott traveled to Yosemite Valley on a family camping trip. They crossed the Sierra at Tiogra Pass and headed south to Bishop for supplies, taking Owens Valley back to Los Angeles. Eaton convinced Mulholland that the Owens River could provide Los Angeles with a reliable source of water: tapping the Eastern Sierra with an aqueduct was an ambitious vision.
Land Purchases BeginEaton visited the Owens Valley in 1905 and began to purchase land for the City of Los Angeles. He gave the impression that he was working for the US Reclamation Service on a public irrigation project, angering local residents when they discovered he was buying land and water rights for Los Angeles.

After securing the land and water rights, it was time to build the aqueduct. But first the Board of Water Commissioners needed to obtain money from Los Angeles residents and legal rights from the Federal Government. A bond measure to pay for the construction passed in Los Angeles by a 10 to 1 margin. After much debate in the House of Representatives, President Theodore Roosevelt decided that Los Angeles should have the rights to the Owens River water.

Aqueduct Construction1908-1913Construction began in 1908 to build the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Construction crews set records for miles of tunnel cut and length of pipe installed. The Los Angeles Board of Public Works estimated that crews could dig eight feet of tunnel per day. Crews dug more than 22 feet per dat while constructing the five-mile Elizabeth Tunnel. They finished the tunnel 20 months earlier than the Board's estimate of five years.
Aqueduct Dedication1913 Nov 05Mulholland told thousands of people attended the ceremony that they were there to dedicate the Aqueduct to "you and your children and your children's children for all time."

With a reliable water supply, Los Angeles began to expand rapidly. However, Owens Valley residents began to fight the City's water export. Confrontations escalated to several dynamiting the Aqueduct. In order to secure its water rights and protect the Aqueduct, the City began purchasing extensive tracts of land in the Owens Valley. Also, Mulholland began to explore how to bring Colorado River and Mono Basin waters to meet the city's needs.

Mono Basin ProjectAfter WorldW War II, the Mono Basin Project began in order to bring more water more dependably to the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Four of Mono Lake's seven tributary streams (Lee Vining, Parker, Walker and Rush Creeks) were tapped for export to Los Angeles through an 11 mile tunnel. Crowley Lake and Grant Lake were built as part of the Mono Basin Project.
Second Aqueduct? - 1970The Los Angeles Aqueduct's limited capacity meant that Los Angeles could not take its full entitlement from the Mono Basin. The California State Water Rights Board urged Los Angeles to either take its full entitlement or risk losing the grants to others. Thus the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct was built, from Haiwee Reservoire to Southern Inyo County in Los Angeles; it was completed in 1970.

The completion of the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct and the City's plans to start taking Owens Valley groundwater inflamed tensions with Owens Valley residents. Inyo County filed suit against Los Angeles under the new California Environmental Quality Act, seeking an Environmental Impact Report on the newest aqueduct. Following years of disagreements and court hearings, in 1984 an agreement was reached for Inyo County and Los Angeles to product a Report together.

Filtration Plant1986