Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's the Water

L.A, as we've been discussing, had to be wrestled into existence. One of the tropes you will hear, time and again, is the saga of the water wars. L.A. was --and is -- a desert. Without water, the city wouldn't have bloomed. Boosters -- businessmen, land speculators, the railroads -- had already embroidered more than a little on the L.A. narrative -- remember the citrus crate boxes we talked about last week? -- but big business saw a Utopia in the parched desert so close to the sea.
History tells us that what became to be known as "the water wars" began when Frederick Eaton was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1898. He appointed his friend, William Mulholland (yes, that Mullholland), to head up a new city agency, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

Eaton and Mulholland's vision stretched far greater than the little Pueblo that was founded in 1781. They set their sites on the run off from the Sierra Nevada river that ran through Owens Valley. The plan was to build an aqueduct that would deliever water to the basin -- essentially literally de-hydrating the Owens Valley -- its people and its prospects -- to allow L.A. to flourish.

It took nearly eight years,2,000 workers and the digging of 164 tunnels to complete the aqueduct in 1913. Water from the Owens River reached a reservoir in the San Fernando Valley on November 5. During the opening-day ceremony, Mulholland spoke these famous words: "There it is. Take it."

After all, he did.

-- L.G.

photo caption: Dynamite found during a string of sabotage incidents along the Owens Valley Aqueduct
photo credit: image via Wikipedia Commons, circa 1924

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