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September 2011

Long Beach Water Department - 100 Years of Service

(Dec. 13, 1921) The old way of installing infrastructure underground, before there were mechanical trench diggers or other heavy machinery that could do the job in place of shovels.

For 100 years, the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) has provided its customers with a reliable and cost-effective supply of drinking water that meets or exceeds the most stringent water quality standards. As it celebrates its Centennial Anniversary, LBWD remains committed to ensuring these standards will continue to be met far into the future.

In 1911, residents in the burgeoning city of Long Beach recognized that demand for water was growing very quickly. Industry had begun to flourish and more and more people were being drawn to the beautiful beach side town. To sustain this growth, Long Beach residents decided the time was right for creating their own municipal water department.

(May 7, 1931) City groundwater well

On June 27, 1911, voters took the first step in making that a reality by approving the purchase of two private water companies which had been serving the city. Three days later, on June 30, the Long Beach City Council passed an emergency ordinance creating the Long Beach Water Department.

Today, LBWD provides water and sewer services to nearly half a million people through 90,000 customer connections and a vast network of approximately 915 miles of water mains and 765 miles of sewer mains.

Filling in water pipe trenches.

During the city's early years, residents relied exclusively on groundwater. Over time it became apparent that if the city wanted to expand and thrive, water from other sources also would be needed. The situation was exacerbated by constant overdrafting of the groundwater basin used by the city. In order to secure a reliable outside source of water, the city in 1931 become one of 13 original member agencies of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California). Long Beach is Metropolitan's second largest municipal member agency. Metropolitan, which imports supplies from Northern California and the Colorado River, provides slightly more than 40 percent of the city's annual drinking water supply.

(Jan. 23, 1951) Long Beach Water District Groundwater Treatment Plant

Over the past 80 years, LBWD and Metropolitan have worked together on many important programs and policies aimed at ensuring water supply reliability for Long Beach and Southern California. A few years ago, LBWD and Metropolitan worked together to build two innovative water supply reliability improvement projects.

The Long Beach and Long Beach-Lakewood Conjunctive Use

Poster detailing the newly constructed Long Beach-Lakewood Conjunctive Use Project
Projects were built to maximize the use of storage space in the Central Basin groundwater aquifer. The projects allow water storage in wet years for use in dry years, enhancing LBWD's ability to deliver water to its customers when they need it most. The projects' flexibility was a great achievement for both LBWD and Metropolitan.

Glass bottles were used to deliver emergency water for various purposes. Today we use plastic bottles.

Sustaining a citywide water conservation ethic is also one of the Water Department's highest priorities. LBWD has offered a variety of programs encouraging its customers to use less water. Several of these were made possible by Metropolitan funding, including rebates for water conservation devices and community grants through Metropolitan's Community Partnering Program.

Metropolitan has also supported LBWD efforts to expand its recycled water infrastructure throughout the city, further strengthening Long Beach's water reliability.

The three agencies partnered in the Long Beach-Lakewood Conjunctive Use Project

To learn more about the Long Beach Water Department's 100-year history or to find out about the department's current and upcoming programs and events, please visit

This newsletter is produced by:
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
700 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012