As early as 1853, farmers in the San Diego region started making the transition from dry land farming and ranching to irrigated agriculture, specifically lucrative citrus crops. With the prospect of large profits looking, farmers scrambled to develop local water supplies for irrigation.
A pair of enterprising brothers stepped up to fill the need for water in the back country. They organized the Kimball Brothers Water Company. In 1869, it bought the rights to the Sweetwater River and then built a reservoir with a 90-foot high dam and distribution pipes. Their water supply spurred the development of National City and Chula Vista.