How did Water come to LA? Commemorating the Aqueduct’s Centennial

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In commemoration of the L.A. Aqueduct’s Centennial, KCRW’s Madeleine Brand and Saul Gonzalez hosted a one hour audio documentary dedicated to a thing near and dear to us all: water– or specifically the story behind L.A.’s water.

The Which Way, LA Blog broke down the story into four parts– plus, test your knowledge of LA water with this quiz!

William Mulholland

Part 1: William Mulholland’s Vision

“There it is. Take it.”- William Mulholland, 1913

Owens valley
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Part 2: What Happened to the Owens Valley?

The Owens Valley River was at the center of fight between Mulholland and the residents of the Owens Valley. Soon after Los Angeles began diverting the water that fed Owens Lake, the lake went dry and the dust of the lake bed was exposed to the howling winds of the valley. This has caused terrible problems for the residents and the environment.

Photo by Saul Gonzalez

Part 3: Where Does Your Water Come From? 

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power engineer Fred Barker knows where your water comes from. Holding a glass of tap water, he explains that it came through the plumbing of the downtown DWP building, through a water main that connects to the Salono Reservoir, which is out by Dodger Stadium. It’s called Solano Reservoir, so we have about a quart or half a quart of water here.

Street in San Fernando Valley Absorbs Water Photo by Matt Holzman
Street in San Fernando Valley Absorbs Water Photo by Matt Holzman

Part 4: Can Groundwater Quench our Thirst?

The San Fernando Valley is a giant aquifer, basically sitting on a sponge that can absorb a lot of water, and because it’s underground, that water doesn’t evaporate. However, due to paving the aquifer doesn’t absorb as much water as it could.