PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Los Angeles Celebrates Centennial of Los Angeles Aqueduct

  • By David M. Kinchen 
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Los Angeles Celebrates Centennial of Los Angeles Aqueduct

 I wonder how many people believe the story of how L.A. got its water as conveyed in the hit 1974 Roman Polanski film “Chinatown” starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston? I lived in L.A. from 1976 to 1992 and I knew it was fiction, based on the facts of the city buying up water rights in  the Owens Valley, more than 200 miles north of the city and constructing the engineering marvel that is the L.A. Aqueduct.

This thought crossed my field of vision when I read in L.A. Observed that the city council has declared:

“2013: Year of the L.A. Aqueduct,”

Here’s the press release:

LADWP to Celebrate Engineering Marvel that Brought Water
from Owens Valley to L.A. 100 Years Ago

LOS ANGELES — (Jan. 18, 2013) The Los Angeles City Council officially declared “2013: Year of the Los Angeles Aqueduct” today, joining the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in launching a centennial celebration to mark 100 years of continuous operation of William Mulholland’s great engineering achievement that brings water to Los Angeles from the Owens Valley, 233 miles away.

The declaration, a City Proclamation, states, “the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct 100 years ago is a significant historical event that led to the growth and prosperity of Los Angeles and Southern California, helped spur an economy that today rivals many nations’ and supports a distinct culture synonymous with invention, creativity and entrepreneurship.

It was presented by Councilmember Jose Huizar along with Councilmember Tom LaBonge.

“The Los Angeles Aqueduct is a critical reason the City of Los Angeles was able to expand from a sparsely populated region to the second-largest city in the United States and a thriving metropolis,” said Councilmember and Energy & Environment Committee Chair José Huizar. “The L.A. Aqueduct’s importance continues to this day and the City of Los Angeles is proud to recognize this engineering marvel.”

“The story of Los Angeles is the story of water, and Angelenos will keep on writing it for centuries to come, thanks to this aqueduct,” said Councilmember LaBonge. The entirely gravity-fed Los Angeles Aqueduct remains one of the engineering marvels of modern times, and to this day continues to supply water through effective and responsible management by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.”

James B. McDaniel, Senior Assistant General Manager of the LADWP Water System, was in Council Chambers to unveil the Department’s plans for the Centennial celebration, called “L.A. Aqueduct Centennial: Our Legacy, Our Future,” and to describe the events, activities and public awareness campaign planned for the year.

“The enduring legacy of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is a source of immense pride at LADWP, and its stewardship is what we do unfailingly each and every day,” he said. “On behalf of the men and women who help operate a system that supplies 600 million gallons of drinking water a day, and the countless others who built the aqueduct or worked for the Water System in the last century, we thank the Mayor and Council for its recognition and appreciation.”

Also on hand was Christine Mulholland, great-granddaughter of aqueduct engineer William Mulholland.

“Few times in the history of Los Angeles has there been such a reason to celebrate the feats and accomplishments of our ancestors. That the Los Angeles Aqueduct, one of the modern wonders of the world of engineering, continues to bring fresh, clean water to the the people of L.A. is a tribute to my great-grandfather, William Mulholland, and all the people who built, and now continue to maintain, the system,” she said.

Today, the Los Angeles Aqueduct still provides about half of the water needed for the city’s 4 million residents and retains a vital role in the city’s water supply portfolio. LADWP is working hard to expand local water resources through water conservation, recycled water, stormwater capture and groundwater cleanup.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial will include special activities and events, a public awareness campaign and a celebration on November 5, 2013 to mark 100 years to the day when a crowd of 40,000 gathered at the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley to witness the first flow of water down the Cascades and to hear Mulholland’s immortal words: “There it is. Take it.”

* * *

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the film, the last one Polanski directed in the U.S.:

“Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne and starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. The film features many elements of the film noir genre, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama. It was released by Paramount Pictures. The story, set in Los Angeles in 1937, was inspired by the California Water Wars, the historical disputes over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and 1920s, in which William Mulholland acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley. Chinatown was the last film Roman Polanski made in the United States before returning to Europe. 
Chinatown is frequently included in lists of the greatest films in world cinema. It holds second place on the American Film Institute list of Best Mystery Films. Chinatown was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, ultimately winning only Best Original Screenplay for Robert Towne. It also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay. In 1991, Chinatown was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

For Wikipedia’s comprehensive account of the California Water Wars, click: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Water_Wars

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