City officials Friday marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of the Los Angeles Aqueduct during its centennial year.
City Councilman Tom LaBonge held a news conference with Christine Mullholand, great-granddaughter of the aqueduct's designer, William Mulholland, to mark the occasion.
"Los Angeles is great and beautiful because of one thing—water," LaBonge said. "There's two things you need in life—water and relationships."
The 233-mile aqueduct began transporting water from the Owens River on the eastern slope of the Sierra Mountains to Los Angeles in November 1913. The massive public works project is widely credited with transforming Los Angeles from a sleepy agricultural town into a modern metropolis, allowing for rapid expansion of the city and the development of the San Fernando Valley. It was also considered a great feat of engineering, since it was entirely powered by gravity and used no electric pumps.
The large-scale water diversion, which now accounts for slightly more than one-third of Los Angeles residents' water supply, has also caused significant environmental problems, including poor air quality in the Owens Valley as Owens Lake dried up. The negative effects have led to a series of legal battles over what to do to keep dust from the dried lakebed contained.
"We want you all to remember that your water is a very, very important and precious resource. Do conserve it, and never waste it," Mulholland said.
The senior assistant general manager of the LADWP Water System, James B. McDaniel, said the aqueduct's legacy is "a source of immense pride" at the largest public utility in the nation.
"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."
McDaniel also noted that the department is working to reduce the city's reliance on imported water by expanding local supplies through greater conservation, recycled water, stormwater capture and cleaning up polluted groundwater sources.