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September 2011

Colorado River Aqueduct 70th Anniversary

Building the Aqueduct

Metropolitan marked a major milestone this summer: the 70th anniversary of the first delivery of water from the Colorado River Aqueduct.

This event in June 1941 culminated an odyssey that began when Southern California cities launched a collective effort to build and operate a 242-mile aqueduct from the Colorado River, across the desert, to the coastal plain.

A year after William Mulholland completed the first route surveys, the cities banded together in 1924 to secure support for the aqueduct. By 1927, the Legislature and the governor approved legislation creating the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. In December 1928, Congress authorized Boulder (later Hoover) Dam, and Metropolitan held its first board of directors meeting.

In 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, voters in 13 Southern California cities overwhelmingly approved a $220 million bond measure to finance the aqueduct. Construction began two years later on the massive project that would at its peak employ 35,000 people. They worked round-the-clock shifts in triple-digit heat, building four dams and five pumping plants. They blasted 90-plus miles of tunnels and constructed 150 miles of canals, siphons, conduit and pipeline.

The aqueduct portion was completed in 1939, and the water softening and filtration plant later named for F.E. Weymouth finished the following year, leaving a complex regional distribution system that included 156 miles of feeder lines.

The first delivery of CRA water occurred on June 17, 1941 to the city of Pasadena. By the end of the month, water would also be delivered to Beverly Hills, Burbank, Compton and Santa Monica.

The drought that hit Southern California in the late 1940s and early 1950s soon proved the wisdom of building the aqueduct by supplying the region with a reliable source of water

As Metropolitan grew, it maintained a perspective of thinking decades in advance. In the 1960s, it provided crucial support for the State Water Project. In 2000, it opened Diamond Valley Lake, the region's largest reservoir. A few years later, Metropolitan finished the Inland Feeder, which moves large amounts of water into DVL during wet seasons.

Metropolitan has continued to make other significant investments in conservation, water recycling, groundwater storage and innovative water transfer and storage projects. Metropolitan is also working with others on the co-equal goals of restoring the environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and making water from the Sierra which flows through the Delta a reliable source of imported water for Southern California. Seventy years after making its first water deliveries, Metropolitan continues to meet the region's water supply challenges.

Published in 1939, the History and First Annual Report, Commemorative Edition celebrates the 70th anniversary of water delivery from the Colorado River.






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