by Kim Stringfellow
From Boom Fall 2013, Vol. 3, No. 3
The Los Angeles Aqueduct’s impact on the Owens Valley through time.
The city of Los Angeles grew from just 11,183 residents in 1880 to 50,395 in 1890; it doubled to 102,479 residents by 1900 and then tripled to 319,198 in the first decade of the twentieth century. City leaders knew that the local water supply could not sustain such growth forever and that if the city continued to expand, alternative sources 1 1ould need to be found. William Mulholland and others began to gather political and economic support for their vision of a conveyance system that would bring the waters of Owens Valley to Los Angeles. In 1905, representatives of the city began buying up land from residents in the valley, and construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct began not long after. The following century saw scores of protests, legal challenges, negotiations, and agreements between Owens Valley residents and Los Angeles.
What follows is the story of the aqueduct from the perspective of the people at the other end of the pipe, told through excerpts from Kim Stringfellow’s audio tour of the Owens Valley, There It Is—Take It! Stringfellow’s work collects her research and interviews with activists, environmentalists, litigators, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) employees, historians, biologists, and residents to tell their story of a century of protests, legal challenges, negotiations, and, finally, some agreements. Click a panel of the timeline below to see a larger version.
[…] The Owens Valley Timeline (BOOM) […]
[…] The river’s environmental and social history has no doubt influenced how it’s been popularly imagined (or, conversely, forgotten). L.A. was founded in 1781 with the river as a vital conduit for urban growth and settlement but one whose ecological and social vitality steadily eroded over the course of the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, the city began to import water, and after the Second World War, the Army Corps took the drastic step of terraforming the river into a 51-mile concrete channel with the aim of flood control. Today, the consequences of channelization are well documented: storm sewers funnel toxic contaminants into the river, the concrete infrastructure funnels most of that same storm water out to the Pacific, and the City of L.A. alone spends $1 billion per year to import 200 billion gallons of water from watersheds located throughout the Western United States (a system that constitutes 20 percent of the city’s energy use). Taken together, the L.A. River and L.A. Aqueduct have thus come to symbolize a water-hungry and power-mongering megacity, perhaps above all for disenfranchised communities like the Owens Valley. […]
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