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The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Telling Their Stories Through Social Media

Using social media to bring history to life, Metropolitan will be “live-tweeting” as if it were the Depression years counting down to June 1941. Learn about the men and women who worked on the Colorado River Aqueduct. Starting March 2016 until mid-June 2016, we will be sharing their stories on Twitter (@mwdh2o_75years). Through their “voices” you will learn about their lives, the challenges they faced and how each of them contributed to the success of a massive, unprecedented effort. Follow us at

Here are the people who will be featured:    

Alfred E. "Al" Preston

As a young man, Al Preston helped William Mulholland scout the Colorado River for potential aqueduct routes. He was involved in many phases of aqueduct construction and after its completion he worked at Metropolitan’s maintenance shop in La Verne. Preston was superintendent of maintenance in La Verne before retiring in 1968. He is credited with inventing, from spare parts, Metropolitan’s first tunnel cleaning machine. His son, Allan, also worked at Metropolitan until his retirement in 2002.

Don Kinsey

A veteran of the Colorado River campaign at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, legendary publicist Don Kinsey joined the Metropolitan Water District in 1930. The next year, he ran the hugely successful $220 million Colorado River Water bond campaign, and singlehandedly created a cutting-edge publicity machine fueled by newspaper inserts, radio spots, newsreels and innumerable press releases, graphics and photos. He founded a news magazine that long outlived him.

W.B. Mathews

Even before becoming the Metropolitan’s first general counsel, W.B. Mathews had already cemented his place in history helping bring the Los Angeles Aqueduct into being. As an attorney representing the city of Los Angeles, he was among the earliest advocates of bringing Colorado River water to Southern California. He drafted the law that created Hoover Dam, as well as the Metropolitan Water District Act that created MWD. He passed away in December 1931. Nine years later, Lake Mathews was named in his honor.

Betty Runyen

Betty Runyen served as a nurse for Dr. Sidney Garfield, who pioneered the concept of providing Colorado River Aqueduct workers with comprehensive health care in return for having them contribute a nickel per day. Whether serving at the 12-bed hospital or driving an ambulance along the route, the curly-haired blonde was a popular presence. Garfield’s managed care program would ultimately grow into what we know today as Kaiser Permanente.


Life along the aqueduct’s construction camps from 1933 -1939 wasn’t just about building the aqueduct. It included recreational, medical and educational services for staff and their families. Metropolitan sub-contracted with construction companies for the building of schools at Iron Mountain and Parker Dam camps. Mrs. Veda V. Craig and Miss Alice McChesney, the latter a 1934 UCLA graduate, were some of the teachers who taught readin’, ritin’, and ‘rithmetic to as few as seven and as many as 34 pupils.

Walter H. "Walt" Preston

As a young engineer, Walt Preston worked for Metropolitan from 1935 to 1937. He started off as an engineering aide and worked at Fan Hill near Thousand Palms. Preston’s job was to help the transit man set up the line and grade of the tunnel. He returned to college after spending two years working on the aqueduct. After earning a bachelor of science in civil engineering, he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and later joined the U.S. Navy Seabees during World War II.