Los Angeles Water Timeline

1769: On the exploration from San Diego to Monterey, Gaspar de Portola discovered and named the Rio Porciuncula. He recognized it as ideal for settlement because of the ample water supply.

1854: The primitive water system for Los Angeles was large enough to become a city department. This department became the Los Angeles City Water Company.

1878: William Mulholland, the man who would shape the city of Los Angeles came to work for the Los Angeles City Water Company.

1886: Mr. Mulholland at age 31 became superintendent of the company.

1889: The first water meter was installed at Mulholland's instigation.


1902: The city of Los Angeles purchased the Los Angeles City Water Company for 2 million dollars.

1904: Mulholland and J.B. Lippincott teamed up, they knew the city needed water and the only way to get it was from the Owens River.

1905: After all the planning, in March Fred Eaton went to the Owens Valley to buy land options and water rights.

1906: Los Angeles had the law which would permit the Owens River to reach Los Angeles.

1907: Voters of Los Angeles gave their overwhelming endorsement to the project, approving a 23 million dollar bond issue for the construction of the California aqueduct.

1913: A carnival atmosphere prevailed for the dedication ceremonies at the "Cascades" on November 5th. The aqueduct was finally up and running.

1916: This year the Summary of all the work appeared, it was known as the "Complete Report". It stated the total of deaths which was 43, and 1,282 accidents.

1921-1929: Five important aqueducts were built which were: Tinemaha on the Owens River, Upper San Fernando (Van Norman), Stone Canyon, Encino, and Hollywood.

1923: By spring once again both Los Angeles and the Owens Valley were facing severe water shortages. The residents of the Owens Valley blamed this trouble on the aqueduct for stealing their water. They decided they had to bring water from the Colorado River.

1924: The first violence of the dispute erupted against the aqueduct. Forty men dynamited the Lone Pine aqueduct spillway gate. This same year Mark Watterson led 60 to 100 people to occupy the Alabama Gates, closing the aqueduct.

1925: The Department of Water and Power (DWP) was established and the voters of Los Angeles approved a 2 million dollar bond for the Colorado River Aqueduct. The Haiwee reservoir had the capacity of 63,800 acre feet, or enough water to run the original aqueduct at full capacity for 80 days.

1926: Between 1926 and 1927 there had been 10 instances of dynamiting to the aqueduct. The people of northern Californians, were totally against the aqueduct because they stated it was being stolen from them.

1928: William Mulholland left the DWP, shaken by the tragedy of the St. Francis Dam, 40 miles north Los Angeles. On March 12th of that year, Mulholland inspected the dam, the construction of which he had supervised. Hours later it collapsed, killing 450 people in the ensuing flood. He accepted full responsibility and resigned. Also in this same year the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California was created.


1935: The Famous Hoover Dam was completed. Also this year the death of the man that made Los Angeles what it is today, William Mulholand.

1941: Owens Valley water right acquisition, aqueduct extension to Mono Basin and tunnel under Mono Craters completed. Mono Lake drops.

1975: The DWP established a wildlife management staff including wildlife biologists and vegetation specialist.

1994 LA required to let enough water into Mono Lake to raise the lake level 20 feet (6.1 m) above the then-current level of 25 feet (7.6 m) below the 1941 level. As of 2003, the water level in Mono Lake has risen 9 ft (2.7 m) of the required 20 feet (6.1 m). Los Angeles made up for the lost water through state-funded conservation and recycling projects.

2006: Under the terms of the settlement, deadlines for the Lower Owens River Project were revised. LADWP was to return water to the lower Owens River by 2005. This deadline was missed, but on December 6, 2006, a ceremony was held (at the same site where William Mulholland had ceremonially opened the aqueduct and closed the flow through the Owens River) to re-start the flow down the 62 mile river. David Nahai, president of the L.A. Water and Power Board, countered Mulholland's words from 1913 and said, "There it is... take it back.”. Groundwater pumping continues at a higher rate than the rate at which water recharges the aquifer, resulting in a long-term trend of desertification in the Owens Valley.

2006 Arizona, California and Nevada — could lease water from farmers in another Lower Basin state, marking a quiet but significant shift. Farms use more than 80 percent of the river’s water, and that water is potentially an additional reservoir that cities could use to protect themselves from what Mulroy calls "catastrophic shortage."