Tag Archives: water supply

May 21, 1921: Violence Mars Operations of Owens Valley Aqueduct

May 21, 1921:  Violence Mars Operations of Owens Valley Aqueduct. “On May 21, 1924, the first violence of the dispute erupted.  Forty men dynamited the Lone Pine aqueduct spillway gate.  No arrests were made.  Eventually, the two sides were entirely stalemated.

The City believed the wholesale purchase of the district was unnecessary to meet its water needs.  Instead, on October 14th, the City proposed a plan that would leave 30,000 acres in the Bishop area free of City purchases.  The City also offered to help promote the construction of a state highway to the area, thereby creating a local tourist industry.

The Wattersons and the directors of the Owens Valley Irrigation District rejected the proposal, insisting on outright farm purchase and full compensation for all the townspeople.

On November 16, 1924 Mark Watterson led 60 to 100 people to occupy the Alabama Gates, closing the aqueduct by opening the emergency spillway.  Renewed negotiation ended the occupation.

Finally, the conflict became completely centered on the issues of farm purchases and reparations to the townspeople.  Attacks on the aqueduct began again in April 1926 and by July 1927 there had been 10 instances of dynamiting.

The controversy was at its height when suddenly valley resistance was undermined.  The Wattersons closed the doors of all branches of the Inyo County Bank.  The Wattersons were not only bankrupt, later they were tried and convicted of thirty-six counts of embezzlement.

In the face of the collapse of both resistance and the Owens Valley economy, the City sponsored a series of repair and maintenance programs for aqueduct facilities that stimulated local employment.  The City of Los Angeles also continued to purchase private land holdings and their water rights to meet the increasing demands.”


May 17, 1839: Birth of John R. Bartlett, New York City Water Schemer

Map showing Bartlett Scheme to export Passaic River Water to New York City

May 17, 1839:  Birth of John R. Bartlett, water schemer. The East Jersey Water Company was formed on August 1, 1889 for the stated purpose of supplying Newark, New Jersey with a safe water supply.  All of the men who were shareholders of the new company were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company. However, the company’s vision extended far beyond a water supply for Newark.

The company began as a confidential syndicate composed of businessmen who were interested in executing grand plans for water supply in northern New Jersey and New York City. The early years of planning included Delos E. Culver who secured a franchise to construct an aqueduct in Hudson County, New Jersey.  He had dreams of supplying not only Jersey City but also using the rich water resources of the Passaic River to supply the lower part of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  He teamed up with John R. Bartlett who has been described as “aggressive and wealthy.”  Bartlett immediately attacked the problem of obtaining water rights on the Passaic River by securing an option on all the stock of the SUM.  It was widely believed that SUM had riparian rights to all the water in the Passaic River that went over the Great Falls, and tying up their water rights was crucial to any water supply scheme.

Bartlett also secured the rights to a tunnel that had been partial excavated under the Hudson connecting Hoboken with Manhattan and began excavating the tunnel further.  All of this activity was explained in a slick report that Bartlett and his associates prepared and which Bartlett pitched in a series of public meetings and speeches designed to build support for his plan to supply New York City from the waters of the Passaic River.  There were many news reports of his presentations around the New Jersey metropolitan areas.  One such presentation was entitled, “The Plans for Furnishing an Abundant Supply of Water to the City of New York from a Source Independent of the Croton Watershed.” Of course, Bartlett stated in his talk that there was plenty of water to serve all of the New Jersey cities as well as New York City.

In his talks, Bartlett used the glitzy book that contained maps and descriptions of the water supply scheme along with testimonials, supporting statements and favorable opinions from notables of the day.  One such notable was Garret A. Hobart who appeared twice in the book.  First, he signed a statement that essentially verified that as President of the Acquackanonk Water Company, Bartlett’s claims of access to the water rights necessary to fulfill his scheme were correct as far as Hobart could determine.  Second, Hobart included an opinion in the book that supported Bartlett’s view that the SUM controlled all of the water rights for the Passaic River at Great Falls, and that Bartlett needed the consent of SUM in order to exercise those water rights, which he had already accomplished by obtaining an option on all of the SUM stock.  Hobart also opined that Bartlett could obtain lands and rights of way by condemnation and eminent domain.  Finally, Hobart agreed that all of the cities that were proposed as customers for the water scheme could contract with a private water company to obtain their supplies of water.

Garret A. Hobart

Hobart’s opinions were just a few of the dozens in the book authored by Bartlett.  It was truly an astonishing document designed to steamroll over any objections or concerns.

However, despite Bartlett’s enormous efforts, one major barrier could not be overcome.  Many leaders of the day believed that it would be illegal to export waters of the State of New Jersey to New York State for the profit of a private company. Bartlett lost interest in the water exporting scheme when it became clear that he could not overcome this barrier.

Reference:  McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

May 6, 1915: Sweetwater, Texas Waterworks

May 6, 1915:  Municipal Journalarticle. Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir. “Sweetwater, Tex.-The city of Sweetwater is building a municipal waterworks system at a cost of $320,000. The sources of the supply are numerous springs in the headwaters of Sweetwater creek, and the runoff of fifty-four square miles of uninhabited rocky hills, in which is to be a billion and a quarter gallon reservoir eight miles south of the city. The city now has a population of 6,500 people with an average daily consumption of 250,000 gallons of water. The present conduit that is being constructed from the lake will reach the requirements of 20,000 inhabitants, while the lake will reach the requirements of a city of 40,000 to 50,000 people. The reservoir covers an area of 200 acres and will be more than fifty feet in depth at the dam. Its capacity is sufficient to supply the city’s present demands for a period of nine years’ continuous drought, with allowances for seepage and evaporation. A portion of the surplus water will therefore be utilized for irrigating some 2,000 acres of fertile land lying in the valley of Sweetwater creek between the lake and the city. The greatest elevation of the city is such that it will permit water by gravity direct from the conduit, but an elevated tank of 250,000 gallons capacity, in addition the present 70,000 gallon tank, will be provided for fire protection and the higher outlying districts of the city. The dam will be an earthen structure sixty feet in height and 1,150 feet long, with concrete and steel piling wall on bedrock fifteen feet below the channel of the stream to cut off the underflow. The spillway will be ten feet below the crest of the dam and 350 feet in length with concrete sills twenty feet deep connected by a concrete floor. The accompanying illustration gives a view of the work.”

Reference: “Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir.” 1915. Municipal Journal. 38:18(May 6, 1915): 631.

May 4, 1916: Sacramento Water Supply

May 4, 1916:  Municipal Journalarticle. Report on Sacramento’s Possible Water Supply. “Sacramento, Cal.-In one of the most comprehensive reports ever made on a water supply for Sacramento, Professor Charles Gilman Hyde and G. H. Wilhelm, engineering experts, have shown that the Sacramento River is the best source of supply for the city. Professor Hyde and engineer Wilhelm were employed several months ago at a cost of $50 for each day they worked. Their report consists of several hundred pages of data, maps, etc. Three sources of supply are treated very thoroughly-mountain, wells and river. Each source of supply is treated independently of the other. The location of the supply distance, route, dams, pipe lines, quantity and quality of supply and cost thereof, are given in each of the three cases.

The mountain supply is shown to be available for a cost of approximately $10,000,000. A well supply may be obtained at a cost of $1,315,000, and the river supply, filtered and purified, will cost $1,288,000. Of the three sources of supply all argument, data and facts pertaining thereto are in favor of the filtration of Sacramento river water. The mountain source, while affording an unlimited supply and carrying with it possibilities for electrical generation, entails an expense which is regarded by city officials as impossible for this city to attempt. The well supply, while moderate in cost compared to that of a mountain supply, the experts show, would only be capable of furnishing 30,000,000 gallons per day, which is held to be too small a supply in view of the probable steady increase in population.

Rapid sand filtration and disinfection are recommended as the best methods for treatment. The capacity of the water works, according to the recommendations, would vary from a maximum of 200 million gallons per day to thirty million gallons per day, and their safe capacity would be between 40 and 50 million gallons per day.”

Reference: “Report on Sacramento’s Possible Water Supply.” 1916. Municipal Journalarticle 40:18(May 4, 1916): 621-2.

Commentary:  And that is exactly what the City of Sacramento did. Later, they added another source and treatment plant on the American River. In 1993, one of the first projects for my firm, McGuire Environmental Consultants, Inc. was to assess the relative health risks of the City of Sacramento using their two sources of supply—the Sacramento and American Rivers.

April 9, 1914: Kensico Dam Excavation

Kensico Dam 2012

April 9, 1914:  Engineering Newsarticle. Excavation and Foundation Work for the Kensico Dam. By Wilson Fitch Smith. “SYNOPSIS-A masonry dam 307ft. high, 1843 ft. long, containing 900,000 cu.yd. of masonry will store 29 billion gallons of water near the lower end of the Catskill Aqueduct, New York City additional water supply. Expansion joints 80 ft. c. to c., drainage wells, inspection galleries, and an architectural treatment of the downstream face of the dam are among its special features. The contract price was nearly $8,000,000. Steam shovels were used for excavating work and cableways for handling the excavated material and much of the contractor’s plant. Guy and stiff-leg derricks were used to complete the excavation and to place masonry. The contractor’s plant represents an investment of more than $1,000,000 and is operated largely by electrical current. During seven months of 1913, a total of 316,000 cu.yd. and in September, 58,242 cu.yd. of concrete and concrete blocks were placed in the dam. Progress on construction to date indicates that the dam will be completed long in advance of the contract date, which was about 1920.

The Kensico Dam, now under construction by New York City, for a storage reservoir in the valley of the Bronx River, three miles north of White Plains, is an important feature of the Catskill water-supply system. It takes rank among the notable masonry dams of the world not only on account of being one of the largest, but also because of the methods of construction which enabled over 300,000 cu.yd. of masonry to be placed in the dam during the working season of 1913.”

Reference:  Smith, Wilson F. 1914. “Excavation and Foundation Work for the Kensico Dam.” Engineering News. 71:15(April 9, 1914): 763.

Commentary:  This dam is one of the most beautiful masonry dams ever built.

April 3, 1986: Death of Wendell R. LaDue

April 3, 1986:  Death of Wendell R. LaDue. Wendell R. LaDue was a water supply visionary who made many improvements to the water supply for Akron, Ohio. He was born in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio on October 1, 1894. He earned his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1918. Shortly afterwards, he joined the staff of the Akron Waterworks. “While serving as its manager, LaDue developed a watershed plan to insure adequate clean water supply. The plan included purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River and building a series of reservoirs. In 1932, the City of Akron began purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River in Geauga County and removing homes and farms to protect the watershed. LaDue oversaw the construction of the 695 acres Rockwell Lake, the 395 acres East Branch in 1938, and the 1,477 acres Akron City Reservoir, now called LaDue Reservoir, in 1961. The capacity of the three reservoirs is 10.5 billion gallons.

In 1947, LaDue founded the Akron-Canton Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In honor of his contributions, the Wendell R. LaDue Civil Engineer Award is awarded each year by the ASCE to a member who has promoted professionalism and the advancement of the civil engineering profession. In 1946 and 1947, LaDue was the president of the American Water Works Association. Since 2003, several Wendell R. LaDue Utility Safety Awards are presented by the AWWA to recognize distinguished water utility safety programs.

LaDue retired from the City of Akron in 1963, and began teaching at the University of Akron where he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering Degree.”

March 22, 1905: Owens Valley Only Viable Source; 1993: World Water Day; 1733: Carbonated Water Invented

J.B. Lippincott, Fred Eaton and William Mulholland. This photograph appeared in the Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1906

March 22, 1905Mulholland Recommends the Owens Valley as Only Viable Source.“In March 1905, Fred Eaton went to the Owens Valley to buy land options and water rights.   The major acquisition of this trip was the Long Valley Reservoir site.  Eaton paid $450,000 for a two month option on ranch lands and 4,000 head of cattle. All in all, he acquired the rights to more than 50 miles of riparian land, basically all parcels of any importance not controlled by the Reclamation Service.

On March 22nd, Mulholland reported to the Board of Water Commissioners.  He had surveyed all the water sources available in Southern California and he recommended the Owens River as the only viable source.  Immediately following Mulholland’s presentation, Fred Eaton [entrepreneur and form mayor of Los Angeles] made his proposal that the City acquire from him whatever water rights and options he had been able to secure to further the project.

While in the valley, Eaton had conducted some business for Lippincott [J.B. Lippincott was the supervising engineer for California in the newly created U.S. Reclamation Service] as well.  The bulk of Lippincott’s staff had been diverted to the lower Colorado River.  The floodwaters of the Colorado River had broken through temporary irrigation barriers and had carved a new channel southeast to the Salton Sink.

Lippincott knew Eaton was headed to the Owens Valley. Several power applications were pending for projects on the Owens River.  Lippincott required information about who the owners were, the use to which the power would be put, and the potential of these projects to interfere with the Reclamation Service’s activities.  Lippincott asked Eaton to do this work. This trip became the source of conflict between the Owens Valley and the City of Los Angeles.

Eaton visited the Independence Land Office to do Lippincott’s research.  There he met Stafford Wallace Austin, the Land Register.  The impression Eaton left was that he was there to do work for the Reclamation Service, and his subsequent land acquisition activities were interpreted in that light.

Whether deliberate or not, this impression caused anger among residents of the area, most notably Austin, when they discovered that Eaton was not acting on behalf of the Reclamation Service.  To the people of the Owens Valley, selling water rights and land for a desired federal project was far different from selling land to Eaton and water rights to the City of Los Angeles.

Austin embodied the people’s feelings of betrayal and anger.  They were afraid that the Reclamation Service intended to abandon them, serving the interests of the City of Los Angeles instead.  Austin wrote to the Commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office and to President Theodore Roosevelt to protest.

Meanwhile a serious decision faced the Reclamation Service.  It was required to make a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior regarding the feasibility of a project in the Owens Valley.”

March 22, 1993:  Since 1993, World Water Dayhas been declared by the United Nations General Assembly. World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The purpose of the day is to recognize the importance of earth’s most precious natural resource. The celebration was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

March 22, 1733:  Joseph Priestly invented carbonated water(seltzer). In 1767, the first drinkable manmade glass of carbonated water(soda water) was invented by Joseph Priestley.

Joseph Priestley published a paper called Directions for Impregnating Water with Fixed Air (1772), which explained how to make soda water. However, Priestley did not exploit the business potential of any soda water products.

Reference:  “Business History.” Website http://www.businesshistory.com/index.php, Accessed November 14, 2012.