SYLMAR (CBSLA.com) — Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city officials took part in a reenactment ceremony to mark the anniversary Los Angeles’ first aqueduct on Tuesday.
The centennial celebration of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades at 17001 Foothill Blvd. took place at about 12 p.m.
Officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) reenacted the exact day and time on Nov. 5, 1913, when water began flowing from the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley through the First Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades. At the time, the city’s population was 300,000 and drought cycles vexed civic leaders eager for Los Angeles to grow.
The event was capped off with LADWP employees opening the Cascades gates, sending a torrent of water down the open-air channel just as it did a century ago, forever altering Southern California and the region at large.
Constructed over five years at a cost of $23 million, the first Los Angeles Aqueduct — which was designed to deliver water entirely by gravity, requiring no power for the pumping of water along the route — spanned more than 230 miles and serviced the Greater Los Angeles area before a second aqueduct was built in 1970.
“By 1920 we had grown from 300,000 to 800,000 residents,” Garcetti said. “Think about that. In a decade, half a million people moving here because of what this aqueduct was able to do.”
Cal State L.A. history professor Mark Wild told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the topic of water distribution in Southern California has been political from the very beginning.
“Without the Aqueduct, LA would be a fraction of the size that it is right now,” Wild said. “The water was coming from the Owens Valley up north on what’s now the [Highway] 395, and lots of folks up there were very upset by the loss of the water they depended on for agriculture and farming.”
Real-life descendants of Aqueduct Engineer William Mulholland and his contemporaries, Fred Eaton and Harry Chandler, joined Garcetti, LADWP General Manager Ronald Nichols, and city and civic leaders at the ceremony.
“I remember Daddy pointing out this cascade, and saying, ‘There’s Grandpa’s waterfall’,” Mulholland’s great-granddaughter Christina said.