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Water and Los Angeles

Water and Los Angeles: A Tale of Three Rivers, 1900-1941 OPEN ACCESS

William Deverell
Tom Sitton
Copyright Date: 2017
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    Water and Los Angeles
    Book Description:

    Los Angeles rose to significance in the first half of the twentieth century by way of its complex relationship to three rivers: the Los Angeles, the Owens, and the Colorado. The remarkable urban and suburban trajectory of southern California since then cannot be fully understood without reference to the ways in which each of these three river systems came to be connected to the future of the metropolitan region. This history of growth must be understood in full consideration of all three rivers and the challenges and opportunities they presented to those who would come to make Los Angeles a global power. Full of primary sources and original documents,Water and Los Angeleswill be of interest to both students of Los Angeles and general readers interested in the origins of the city.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96597-3
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. PREFACE (pp. vii-viii)
    William Deverell and Tom Sitton
  2. Introduction (pp. 1-16)

    It all happened very fast. In but two generations, Anglo-Americans and the wildly expansive American nation established dominion over the arid landscapes of the far West (and the indigenous inhabitants who lived upon them) through interrelated, mutually reinforcing processes of conquest and violence. The brief and brutal war with Mexico (1846–48), a giant land grab ineptly disguised as a patriotic defense of national sovereignty, brought theentirenorthern third of the Republic of Mexico into U. S. possession, with California as the great prize. At the very moment of territorial cession, the discovery of Sierra Nevada gold suggested to...

  3. Without water there would be no major growth for Los Angeles. Its Mediterranean climate can be very dry, and there are few sources of freshwater nearby. Sometimes there is too much water in the area: floods have destroyed homes and infrastructure, necessitating projects to control the floodwaters. At other times a lack of rain has caused the earth to dry up, destroying agricultural crops and limiting the amount of water available for thirsty city dwellers and suburbanites, not to mention future residents and industries. City officials and city boosters who promoted urban growth knew that they needed a dependable water...

  4. As booster campaigns attempted to generate political support for huge new water projects, other planning went into imagining and reimaging gargantuan aspects of water infrastructure. Planners had to figure out if the projects were even necessary based on present resources and contemplated growth. If they were not, how much more water would be required, or how much flooding would need to be prevented, how much would such a project cost to complete, and how would it be paid for?

    Engineers of the time had to design and build massive structures to last for many decades, if not longer. These engineers...

  5. 3 Rivers in Nature (pp. 117-138)

    All of these large water development projects took a toll on the rivers and their watersheds as natural features were sacrificed for the greater good.

    The treatment of the Los Angeles River by nearby residents has always been less than sympathetic. Used for drinking, bathing, and dumping over centuries, it has been polluted and cut into by irrigation and drainage ditches. Pollution has been addressed by municipal ordinances that have not always been effective. Frustration at the river’s periodic and occasionally ferocious flooding spurred the city to try the Pyrrhic remedy of lining the riverbed with concrete to speed the...

  6. Given our ambition for this book—that it will carry you through documents and ideas back to a river and urban past that must be grappled with in order to fully understand the present—we would be remiss if we did not at least contemplate the future of metropolitan Los Angeles in terms of exactly those riparian places and spaces. The future, unknown and unknowable, is nonetheless inextricably tied to what has come before—which roads or paths were taken or not and how the history of rivers moves and shifts and changes course like a river itself.

    Los Angeles...