California Water Wars – Collapse | 5

California Water Wars – Collapse | 5

With the failure of the Watterson brothers’ banks, the Owens Valley community was forced to abandon its fight for water rights against the city of Los Angeles. William Mulholland, the Los Angeles water department superintendent, could finally breathe a little easier. The city now had full control over its water supply for the foreseeable future. 

But he would discover that some things can’t be foreseen. Construction had finished in 1926 on the last of the nineteen dams that lined the aqueduct. Standing 200 feet tall, the St. Francis dam held back billions of gallons of water. But by spring of 1928, troubling cracks were beginning to appear in the dam’s surface. The events of March 12, 1928, would lead not only to a terrible catastrophe, but would forever change the way the citizens of Los Angeles thought about William Mulholland — the man who brought them water.

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