Southern California Water:
Who Does It Belong To?

The Colorado River Aqueduct

Water Rights / Past, Present, Future / Effects of Appropriation / Responsibilities

The Colorado River Aqueduct

The idea for a Colorado River Aqueduct was developed in the 1920's around the time that the federal government built the All American Canal in the Imperial Valley. In 1929, a court case gave each of the states in the Colorado River Basin allocations of the water from the river. When Hoover Dam was complete in 1935, the MWD began construction on a diversion dam downstream. A $220 million bond was issued to pay for the canal. By 1941, water was flowing into Southern California.

The Colorado River Basin

Municipal Water District Service Area

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Past, Present, Future
Before the aqueduct was built, the Colorado River flooded and breeched a farmer-cut irrigation canal in 1905. The water flowed into the Imperial Valley for 2 years and created the 35-mile long, 9 to 12-mile wide Salton Sea. The Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1929 provided for building dams and hydroelectric plants along the Colorado River. Over a period of 50 years, 18 major dams and diversions were built to provide each state in the watershed with its share. As a preventative measure to drought, Diamond Valley Lake was built in the 1990's and holds enough water for 8.4 million people.

"Dams in the Colorado River Watershed
Davis Dam, Bullhead City; Glen Canyon Dam, Page; Palo Verde Diversion, Ehrenberg; Parker Dam, Parker; Imperial Diversion, north of Yuma; Laguna Dam, north of Yuma
Blue Mesa Dam, Gunnison; Dixon Canyon Dam, Ft. Collins; Flatiron Dam, Loveland; Granby Dam, Granby; Olympus Dam, Estes Park; Rifle Gap Dam, Rifle; Sugar Loaf Dam, Leadville
Hoover Dam, Boulder City
New Mexico
Navajo Dam, Farmington
Deer Creek Dam, Heber; Flaming Gorge Dam, Dutch John; Moon Lake Dam, Duchesne
Fontenelle Dam, La Barge "
National Geographic Society

Salton Sea fish die-off, 1998
Milton Friend, Ex. Dir., Salton Sea Science Subcommittee
Hundley, The Great Thirst, p. 475
Salton Sea and Imperial Valley
N.A.S.A. Earth Observatory, 6/2002

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So What?
- Water from the Colorado River provided Los Angeles with feeling of unlimited population growth.
- The Salton Sea environment is a controversy. The government has held to a "do nothing" policy and environmentalists are angry that the sea is dying through evaporation and pollution.
- Seven states are responsible for the river, leading to disagreements in allocation, toxin clean up, and unforeseen problems.

"Tainted River", Press Enterprise
Chris Ramos, 12/8/2002

Diamond Valley Lake

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MWD responsibilities :
To provide clean, toxic free water to 17 million people
- Promote conservation and deal with allocation cutbacks
- To build new recreational facilities

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