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Letters from America - September 9, 2001

By - Mon, 10th Sep 2001

Letter Issue 7
Water for Los Angeles how it was accomlished ..

The desert was conquered by an Irish man named ...
William Mulholland, Father of the L.A. Aqueduct.

Mulholland's Dream, the first episode in the four-part CADILLAC DESERT series,
tells the incredible story of how the hunt for and the exploitation of water
brought the city of Los Angeles to life -- and, literally, life to Los Angeles.

Evoking the real-life visionaries, scoundrels and dark intrigues behind the fiction
of the motion picture Chinatown -- and the remarkable tale of
Water Department chief William Mulholland's quest to quench the city's
ever growing thirst for more and more water -- the broadcast weaves together past
and present to illustrate water's essential role in the history of Los Angeles,
as well as the city's challenges for the future.

William Mulholland emigrated from Ireland in 1878,
and worked as a ditch digger for the L.A. water system.
He quickly taught himself hydraulic engineering, rose quickly through the ranks,
and soon became superintendent. He tried desperately to make the exploding population
conserve water, but growth sabotaged everything he did, and soon the city sucked dry
the little Los Angeles River, its only source of water.
Mulholland knew he would have to find new water,
and turned to the remote Owens Valley, 230 miles north of L.A.

Construction of the L.A. Aqueduct.

One of the biggest obstacles in building the world's largest water system was lack of water.

Between 1911 and 1923, Mulholland's agents quietly purchased 95 percent of water rights
to the Owens River.

Against overwhelming odds, Mulholland constructed a 233-mile aqueduct across the blistering
Mojave Desert to deliver Owens River water to downtown L.A.

When the Owens Valley dried up, local ranchers seized aqueduct gates and dynamited the
pipeline repeatedly.
In 1927, Mulholland declared war,
securing L.A.'s legal rights to Owens Valley water with a massive show of armed force.

When the huge San Francisquito dam -- part of the aqueduct project -- burst in 1928,
it caused the worst California disaster since the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

Mulholland resigned in disgrace and died a broken man,
his real achievement forgotten.

But in the 1930s and 40s, L.A.'s City Council, Chamber of Commerce,
and its Board of Realtors continued to promote the water search he had set in motion -- this time,
300 miles east to the Colorado River, and, with state help,
600 miles north to the Feather River.
But still, it wasn't enough.

After L.A. had drained so much water from the streams feeding Mono Lake -- a jewel
in the California desert -- the Lake level fell 40 feet.

Environmentalists began to take notice.

A handful of biologists fought the powerful Department of Water and Power,
and in 1988, the state forced the city to stop its diversions of water from Mono Lake.

The victory helped open the gates for the conservation measures,
progressive water policies, and fragile peace that have come to Los Angeles
in recent years.

For more interesting info on the California Water project try this link ...

Cheers till next time Jim White

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