Colorado River Aqueduct - Background and Construction

Background and Construction

As the Los Angeles area grew in the early 1900s, Mulholland and others began looking for new sources of water. Eventually, Los Angeles laid claim to the waters of the Owens Valley, east of the Sierra Nevada, and in 1913 completed a 240-mile (390 km) aqueduct to deliver its waters to the burgeoning city. By 1923, Mulholland and his compatriots were looking east to an even larger water supply, the Colorado River. The plan was to dam the Colorado River and carry its waters across hundreds of miles of mountains and deserts. In 1924 the first steps were taken to create a metropolitan water district, made up of various cities throughout southern California. The Metropolitan Water District ("Met") was incorporated on December 6, 1928, and in 1929 took over where Los Angeles had left off, planning for a Colorado River aqueduct.

The MWD considered eight routes for the aqueduct. In 1931 the MWD board of directors choose the Parker route which would require the building of the Parker Dam. The Parker route was chosen because it was seen as the safest and most economical. A $220 million bond was approved on September 29, 1931. Work began in January 1933 near Thousand Palms, and in 1934 the United States Bureau of Reclamation began work on the Parker Dam. Construction of the aqueduct was finished in 1935. Water first flowed in the aqueduct on January 7, 1939.

The CRA contributed to urban growth (even sprawl) in the south coast region. Although the CRA brought "too much, too expensive" water in its early years of operation, subsidies (via property taxes) and expansion of MWD's service area brought reduced prices and expanded demand. (Holding supply constant, that meant that the quantity demanded rose to meet supplies.) On subsidies and sprawl, note that it was not until 1954 that Met's revenue from selling water exceed the cost of delivering it; it was not until 1973 that revenue from sales exceeded revenue from taxes. Since about 80 percent of Met's costs are fixed, revenue needs to cover far more than operating expenses if it is going to pay for all costs.

In 1955, the aqueduct was recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as one of the "Seven Engineering Wonders of American Engineering".

Read more about this topic:  Colorado River Aqueduct

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