Water in the Desert – Desert Magazine (Summer 2013)

Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is blessed with water. The very names associated with the places in the desert, such as The Oasis Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells, Palm Springs, Snow Creek and River Estates all conjure up pretty images of water but the early story of desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque; it literally can be seen as a history of ditches.

More than a century ago a prescient and practical few understood that water was the most precious of all resources in such an arid region. Hydrology was the purview of engineers, and naturally, they moved the precious liquid in ditches. The most famous Southern California water story is that of William Mullholland and his grandiose ditch, the Owens Valley Aqueduct. His scheme to ensure a reliable water supply for burgeoning Los Angeles came at the cost of turning a once fertile pasture surrounding a lake situated 200 miles away into a dust-polluting salt flat the size of San Francisco. But here in the natural desert, there were visionaries thinking about using local water and building their own ditches to deliver it.
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