The Colorado River:
A Regional Solution

Mulholland turned east to the Colorado River as a new source of water.  He began a four-year series of surveys in 1923 to find an alignment that would bring the water of the Colorado River to Los Angeles.

In 1925 the Department of Water and Power (DWP) was established and the voters of Los Angeles approved a $2 million bond issue to perform the engineering for the Colorado River Aqueduct.  The DWP brought the cities of the region together with Los Angeles in 1928 to form a state special district.  An act of the State Legislature created the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). Ts original purpose was to construct the Colorado River Aqueduct to supply supplemental water to Southern California.  In 1931, voters approved a $220 million bond issue for construction, and work began on the ten-year project that would bring the water 300 miles to the coast.

Part of the success of the project was the spectacular Boulder Canyon project, now known as Hoover Dam.  The DWP, manager of its own hydroelectric power facilities along the Los Angeles Aqueduct, was instrumental in the struggle to gain federal approval for the project which combined flood control, water supply, and energy production for the three states that form the lower Colorado River basin.

Los Angeles, as primary consumer of the power, guaranteed its power purchases against the federal government’s costs for the dam.  Completed in 1935, the dam began furnishing power to the city the following year over a 226-mile transmission line built by the DWP.

Upon the completion of the Colorado River Aqueduct in 1941, MWD began to wholesale Colorado River water to its member agencies.  Today those agencies include 14 cities, 12 municipal water districts, and a county water authority.  More than 130 municipalities and many unincorporated areas are served by this project of the DWP’s and Mulholland’s vision.

Before his death on July 22, 1935, Mulholland lived to see the beginnings of the Colorado River Aqueduct and Hoover Dam, constructed in the spirit of greatness he had always envisioned for Los Angeles.

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