From the Archives

Looking back at snapshots in time throughout the San Diego County Water Authority’s rich regional history.

On January 10, 1957, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved construction of the Second San Diego Aqueduct.

1957: Second San Diego Aqueduct Approved To Support Growing Region

After completion of Pipeline 2, in the First San Diego Aqueduct in 1954, it soon became clear additional water would be needed to sustain the growing region. On January 10, 1957, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved preliminary plans for the construction of the Second San Diego Aqueduct. The general manager was directed to […]

Dedication ceremony at Oat Hills Tunnel, releasing water into the San Diego Aqueduct. Left to Right: Chairman Fred A. Heilbron, Water Authority; D.E. Howell, San Diego County; E.G. Nielsen, Bureau of Reclamation; Chairman Joseph Jensen, Metropolitan Water District; Capt. C.W. Porter, U.S. Navy. Extreme left: General Manager and Chief Engineer Richard S. Holmgren observing removal of bulkhead. Photo: SDCWA Archives

1954: Water Flows Freely Through Entire First Aqueduct

On Oct. 2, 1954, the Water Authority celebrated the completion of the San Diego Aqueduct. A dedication ceremony was held with the S.A. Healy Company, contractor of the last section of the aqueduct. During the ceremony, Captain C.W. Porter, representing the Commandant of the Eleventh Naval District of the U.S. Navy, presented a letter to […]

Water Shortage Headlines Collage

1990s: Drought Prompts Supply Diversification Strategy

In the early 1990s, the Water Authority received 95 percent of its water from a single source — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — making the region vulnerable to supply shortages. In February 1991, worsening drought conditions forced MWD to cut deliveries to the San Diego region by 31 percent. The cutbacks lasted […]

2003: Colorado River Agreement Signed

In 1995, the San Diego County Water Authority began negotiations with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) for the transfer of up to 500,000 acre-feet of water per year from the fertile farming area in the southeastern corner of California. In 1998, the Water Authority and IID signed an agreement that provided for the transfer of […]

1954: Final Pipe Installed for Pipeline 2, San Vicente Aqueduct

Thanks to an intensive lobbying effort and consensus building by the San Diego County Water Authority’s first chairman, Fred Heilbron, the San Vicente Aqueduct’s second pipeline was constructed between 1951 and 1954. The effort paid off when the second pipeline, parallel to and the same size as the first, began delivering water to the San […]

Sweetwater Dam was constructed through the efforts of the Kimball Brothers, and spurred development of National City and Chula Vista. Photo: SDCWA Archives

1895: Sweetwater Dam Spurs South Bay Growth

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 […]

Archives-Water Pipe, 1911-1915

1911: Laying Water Pipe To Serve San Diego’s Growing Population

At the turn of the century, San Diego County began experiencing tremendous urban growth. To meet the growing need of the population, water development began in earnest. It started a transition from relying on well water to impounding river water in the county’s mountains, and then moving it into the urbanized areas. The next few […]

1951: Construction Milestone for Pipeline 2, San Vicente Aqueduct

When World War II concluded, most experts expected San Diego’s population to decrease, but that was not the case. Pipeline 1 proved inadequate to meet the region’s water needs. Drought years in 1950-51 increased concerns about water shortages. The Water Authority appealed to the U.S. Navy to help build a second pipeline. It was willing, […]

1920s: Crouch Well, Emerald Hills Country Club

The area which constitutes Emerald Hills in San Diego County was once a Kumeyaay Indian burial site. The modern neighborhood is named for the Emerald Hills Country Club and Golf Course, established in the area in 1929 by Art Cloninger, a well-known restauranteur of the era. The hilly area had a magnificent view of the […]

1916: Record Rainfall Damages Dams, Causes Flooding

Despite the construction of magificent new dams, the San Diego region suffered from lack of water supplies due to a ten-year drought. Desperate for rain, the City of San Diego hired rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield in December 1915 for $10,000 with the promise he could fill the Morena Reservoir. From January 15 – 20, 1916, […]

Early outreach project at the Del Mar Fair in summer 1965, promoting 'pure Northern California water.'

1965: Outreach Efforts at the Del Mar Fair

In the summer of 1965, the San Diego County Water Authority held one of its first outreach events at the Del Mar Fair – long before it was called the San Diego County Fair and before the Water Authority had a formal public relations department. For the Fair’s summer run, a 2,500-gallon stainless steel tank […]

People walk along the top of the newly opened El Capitan Dam in 1935. Photo: San Diego County Historical Society

1935: El Capitan Dam Dedication

In its quest to supply water to its growing population, the City of San Diego claimed water rights to the San Diego River, and filed for a dam. A Mission Gorge site was first proposed on land owned by business leader Ed Fletcher. Another prominant business leader, John D. Spreckels lobbied for a dam farther […]

Pipelines from Lake Hodges to the Olivenhain Reservoir helps generate electricity and gives the San Diego County Water Authority the ability to store 20,000 acre feet of emergency water supplies at Lake Hodges when the entire project is finished. Photo: SDCWA

2012: Lake Hodges Projects

While looking for ways to optimize the San Diego region’s water supply, San Diego County Water Authority engineers realized the potential to link the new Olivenhain Reservoir with the existing Lake Hodges just to its east. Not only would connecting the lakes by a pipeline facilitate movemnt of Lake Hodges’ water through the regional distribution […]

By order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the U.S. Navy built the San Diego Aqueduct to deliver Colorado River water to San Diego. It is now known as Pipeline 1. Photo: SDCWA

1947: Construction of the First San Diego Aqueduct

San Diego became a hub of Naval Activity after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II in 1941. The city’s population doubled in two years, and water use also doubled. It was clear the city and the Navy would soon need water from the Colorado River. An aqueduct for […]

flow of water from the San Diego Aqueduct at the south portal of San Vicente Tunnel into the San Vicente Reservoir, November 26, 1947. Photo: SDCWA Archives

1947: First San Diego Aqueduct Averts Water Shortage

San Diego County was on the brink of a major water shortage in 1947, when reservoirs that stored local water were running dry and the region had less than three weeks of water supplies left. But on Nov. 26, 1947, the first Colorado River water flowed south from the Colorado River aqueduct’s western end in […]