San Diego Public Water History

(edited by me)

1850 -- California becomes a state and the City of San Diego is incorporated.

1873 -- San Diego Water Company provides an organized water supply to serve the city’s population of 2,000. Water is $.25 per bucket vs an average man’s pay of $13.00 per month.

1885 -- Sewer service begins along the lower portion of 5th and 6th Avenues with effluent discharged directly into San Diego Bay (rather than a ditch behind your house).

1887 -- Old Town Reservoir built to store water from 12 wells located in the San Diego River bed adjacent to the old Presidio.

1889 -- The San Diego Flume Company completes a 36 mile wooden flume to carry water from Boulder Creek to La Mesa Reservoir at Grossmont Summit.

1897 -- Lower Otay Dam completed by the Southern California Mountain Water Company. Construction of Morena Dam begins but is soon suspended.

1901 -- Following a popular vote, the City of San Diego enters into the municipal water supply business and purchases the San Diego Water Company.

1906 -- Lower Otay water supply is connected to the City's distribution system by the Bonita Pipeline to a filtration plant located at Chollas Heights Reservoir.

1912 -- The City purchases the Otay River-Cottonwood Creek system from the Southern California Mountain Water Company. Morena Dam finally completed.

1914 -- The City purchases Morena Dam. Otay Water Treatment Plant begins operations.

1916 -- A series of heavy rain storms hit the county, in conjunction with alleged rainmaking activities of Charles Hatfield. The San Diego River floods Mission Valley from cliff to cliff cutting all roads to the north. Lower Otay Dam, built without a spillway, tops out and bursts, flooding the Otay Valley.

1918 -- Lower Otay Dam is renamed Savage Dam and reconstructed. Lake Hodges Dam and San Dieguito Dam completed by the Santa Fe Land & Improvement Co. (both later purchased by the City).

1922 -- City completes Barrett Dam. Dulzura Conduit links Morena Reservoir and Cottonwood Creek/Pine Creek watersheds with the City's water system at Lower Otay.

1928 -- Construction of Sutherland Dam is halted after one year of construction. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is formed to bring Colorado River Water to Southern California. San Diego was not a member.

1930 -- The U.S. Supreme Court determines the City of San Diego has prior and paramount rights to the water of the San Diego River.

1935 -- Water rights secured, the City completes construction of El Capitan Dam and a pipeline connecting it to the City's water supply system. University Heights Filtration Plant enlarged.

1936 -- The City decommissions wells in Mission Valley.

1943 -- San Vicente Dam and pipeline dedicated after two years of construction, providing another source of water for San Diego.

1943 -- U.S. Navy completes the City's first sewer treatment plant to reduce health risks to sailors on ships in San Diego Bay!

1944 -- San Diego County Water Authority (CWA) is formed with the City, and becomes a member agency of MWD. CWA completes a pipeline connecting the county and MWD's water supply system.

1947 -- MWD water from the Colorado River flows into San Vicente Reservoir, finally ending San Diego's total dependence on local sources for water.

1950 -- San Diego takes over operation of Murray Reservoir and commissions the Alvarado Filtration Plant. Water treatment plants at University and Chollas Heights decommissioned.

1954 -- Sutherland Dam, dormant since 1928, is finally completed and connected by pipeline and natural streambeds to San Vicente Reservoir.

1956 -- South San Diego, Nestor, San Ysidro, and part of Otay Mesa annexed to the City. Service charges for sewer service instituted for the first time.

1958 -- The sewers are transferred to the newly renamed Water Utilities Department.

1960 -- Miramar Dam completed and Miramar Filtration Plant put into commission. Lake Murray purchased from Helix Irrigation District.

1963 -- The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Metropolitan Wastewater System are put into service, ending direct discharge of raw wastewater into San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean.

1978 -- San Diego begins receiving water from the State Water Project.

1997 -- The Water Department begins selling recycled water produced from the North City Water Reclamation Plant located in University City.

1998 -- The Alvarado Treatment Plant Expansion and Improvement Project began, upgrading Lake Murray and College Ranch pump stations and the Operations building.

2001 -- Construction began on Miramar Treatment Plant Expansion and Improvement.

2002 -- The South Bay Water Reclamation Plant begins producing recycled water.

2003 -- The Otay Water Treatment Plant Expansion and Upgrade Project began. The project increased capacity and reliability to meet current and future water needs.

2007 -- The San Diego City Council authorized the Water Reuse Demonstration Project. The Demonstration project consists of a one-million gallon per day advanced recycled water treatment plant at the North City Water Reclamation Plant.

2009 -- Water Department and Metropolitan Wastewater Department merge as the Public Utilities Department.