By Tim Brick
Water has shaped Pasadena in remarkable ways. It is the essential element that has molded our geography, growth and lifestyle. This year, as we celebrate the centennial of Pasadena’s municipal water department, we will highlight the stories of Pasadenans who devoted themselves to building the reliable water supply that makes our existence here possible.
Pasadena sits on a plateau 600 feet to 1,000 feet above sea level and is bounded by the Arroyo Seco to the west, Santa Anita Canyon to the east, the San Gabriel Foothills to the north and the Raymond Fault to the south. Spanish explorers dubbed the eastern watershed the Arroyo Seco, or “dry riverbed,” but local native tribes who lived here knew the region as Hahamongna, “the land of flowing waters, fruitful valley.” The padres and settlers of the San Gabriel Mission were the first Europeans to tap the springs and artesian water that gushed at the plateau’s southern boundary to develop California's richest mission.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a new wave of settlers used the “flowing waters” to feed their orchards and subdivisions. In the 1860s, Benjamin Eaton built “Wilson’s Ditch” to transport water from the upper Arroyo to ranches further onto the mesa.
The pioneers of the Indiana Colony, who incorporated the San Gabriel Valley Orange Grove Association in 1874, made their first priority the development of a reliable water system. Eaton laid out a three-mile pipeline, bringing water from Devil’s Gate to a 3 million gallon reservoir near present day Colorado Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue. Eaton’s pipeline was a bold departure from the open-ditch water systems of the day.
Ten years later, three companies assumed responsibility for developing Pasadena and its water system: Pasadena Land & Water Company, Lake Vineyard Land & Water Company, and North Pasadena Land & Water Company. To Be Continued.
Tim Brick lives in Pasadena and serves on the Board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He is the author of a forthcoming book on the history of water in Pasadena. Find out more at www.PWPweb.com/WaterCentennial.