Construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

Construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

The Los Angeles Aqueduct aqueduct was designed and built by the city’s water department, at the time named the Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct, under the supervision of the department’s Chief Engineer William Mulholland.

Built between 1908 and 1913 at a cost of $23 million (today $689 million), the LA Aqueduct tapped into the waters of the Owens River and delivered water 233-miles south to Los Angeles.

The LA Aqueduct brought water from the Owens Valley hundreds of miles away to a growing area in need of additional resources to sustain its people and their endeavors, helping spur an economy that today rivals that of many nations. A century later, this gravity-fed system continues to be a major source of water for Los Angeles — on an average year supplying 29% of the water needs for four million people.
The most difficult part of the construction of the LA Aqueduct was tunneling. There were 142 tunnels, totaling forty-three miles in length (about 69km), that had to be dug during the five years of the aqueduct’s construction. The Elizabeth Tunnel was the longest with a length of over five miles.

In the first 11 months of work, 35 kilometers of tunnel were driven. The Elizabeth Tunnel set the world record for hard rock tunnel driving: 604 feet in one month, that is 1,8 kilometers. The Board of Engineers had estimated it would take five years to finish the five-mile tunnel. The men beat their deadline by 20 months.

When completed in 1913, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was considered to be a great engineering accomplishment only second to the Panama Canal. A century later, it continues to be a marvel in modern engineering.

Below are some shots that have been preserved for over 100 years: