Los Angeles Aqueduct

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There are two Los Angeles Aqueducts--the original Los Angeles Aqueduct was designed by William Mulholland (an Irish immigrant who became a self-taught engineer and head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) and completed in 1913 to deliver water from the Owens River to the city of Los Angeles, California. The first aqueduct project began in 1905 with a budget of 24.5 million dollars. With 100,000 workers employed in its construction, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was finished in 1913. It consisted of 223 miles of 12-foot steel pipe, 120 miles of railroad track, 2 hydroelectric plants, 170 miles of power lines, 240 miles of telephone line, a cement plant, and 500 miles of roads. The aqueduct used gravity to carry the water, so it was relatively autonomous and cost-efficient. Apart from a dam failure in 1928 that flooded the Santa Clarita Valley and most of Ventura County (resulting in disgrace and financial ruin for Mulholland), and an incident of sabotage by displaced Owens Valley farmers a few years previously, the aqueduct system has worked quite well throughout its history. It was built so well, in fact, that to this day the city still uses it to transport water. The second Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed in 1970. It carries water 137 miles.

The construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct effectively ended the development of the Owens Valley as a farming community and devastated the ecosystem of Owens Lake. Mulholland and his associates, including Los Angeles Times publisher, Harrison Gray Otis have often been denounced for having used deceptive tactics to obtain the Bureau of Reclamation rights to the Owens River's flow. However, the aqueduct's water was crucial in the development of what is now one of the world's most important cities, and a historical rehabilitation of Mulholland's reputation has taken place in recent years.

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