1945

Water competition in agriculture

One hundred years ago William Mulholland, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Water Department (LAWD), introduced California to a new concept in state politics: the water grab. Faced with meeting the water demands for a small, fast growing desert town, Mulholland quietly bought up water rights in the Owens Valley, more than 200 miles to the north, built an aqueduct across the blistering Mojave Desert and delivered the water to downtown Los Angeles. Violent protests followed. Owens Valley ranchers attempted to dynamite the aqueduct, and the LAWD responded with a massive show of armed force. The water transfer paved the way for the growth of Los Angeles. Urban users got unlimited supplies of water, and large commercial farmers got irrigation water that made the deserts bloom with cotton and other water-intensive crops. Farmers in the Owens Valley lost out.

Related Subject(s): Economic and Social Development
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