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Westernhistoric002It wasn't gold, exactly, but it was the next best thing in Southern California: a readily-available 
and plentiful supply of water.

Since 1879, the easterly portion of the interior basin of the Santa Ana River was considered one of the best “watered” areas in Southern California. Water – and plenty of it – would always be there for the taking – or so certain communities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties thought. The first hint that this might not always hold true came in the late 1920s when the State Division of Water Resources warned Riverside and San Bernardino that they would eventually run short of water. This first warning was ignored. The next wasn’t. 


A post-World War II population boom began to catch up with nature’s ability to replenish stream flow and pumped underground waters of the basin. The water tables began to recede rapidly as drought added to the ever-increasing need for water. As a result, in early 1952, following conferences between private water companies and San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and Chambers of Commerce, the Upper Santa Ana River Water Study Committee was established. The committee retained two well-known Southern California water engineers, Harold Conkling and Donald Baker, to study and report on the “Adequacy of Present Water Supply of Easterly Portion of Interior Basin of Santa Ana River.” The Conkling-Baker Report concluded that the area’s demand for water averaged 60,000 acre feet more per year than nature had historically supplied. 

Faced with a pressing need for a source of supplemental water, the study committee looked to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and its Colorado River Aqueduct. The Aqueduct had been constructed in the midst of the Depression to transport Colorado River water 242 miles to Metropolitan members agencies in the Southern California coastal plain. The Aqueduct’s terminal reservoir, Lake Mathews, was located in the heart of Riverside County. To negotiate with Metropolitan, the Riverside County members of the study sponsored formation of the Western Municipal Water District Committee of Riverside County. The new District’s boundaries, if approved by the voters, would include the cities of Riverside and Corona and the habitable lands near these cities within the same watershed. Because Elsinore Valley was experiencing serious water shortages, the Elsinore Valley and Temescal Canyon portions of western Riverside County were also included. 



Under the Municipal Water District Act of 1911, the electorate, by majority vote, agreed to the formation of the Western Municipal Water District of Riverside County on January 19, 1954. Once the public voted to create the District, the Citizens Committee for Water campaigned for annexation to the Metropolitan Water District. Annexation was approved by the voters the following September, and the District became a Metropolitan member agency on November 12, 1954. Once the District joined Metropolitan, the Western Board turned its attention to the actual delivery of imported water. 
The first meeting of the Board of Directors, who had been elected concurrently with the formation election, was held January 26, 1954 at the District office at 3614 Ninth Street, Riverside. The District subsequently relocated to Riverside Avenue and then, in 1986, moved to the offices on Alessandro Boulevard. Western outgrew the Alessandro administrative office location in 2011 and moved to the 14205 Meridian Parkway in Riverside; Operations are conducted out of the Ops Center near Lake Mathews.

In October, 1954, shortly after Western’s annexation to Metropolitan, the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District became an agency for the distribution of supplemental water within Western’s boundaries. Western’s first delivery of Colorado River water was made on May 12, 1956 to the Bedford Heights Mutual Water Company. This water was used for the irrigation of newly-planted citrus trees. Eventually, the District would supply irrigation water for 9,000 acres of citrus. Today, less than 3,000 acres remain. 


that the District began operating its own retail domestic system. Western’s first system for the delivery of drinking water directly to the homeowner was constructed in the Rainbow Canyon area south of Temecula. This small area was annexed to Western in 1959 and water service started to 27 customers in 1962, as part of an agreement that allowed the Metropolitan Water District to construct a pipeline through the area. The first major retail improvement district, ID-1, began water service to 300 customers in 1962. The property owners in this improvement district, which incorporates the Woodcrest area of Riverside County, relied on wells that had periodically run dry for their drinking water prior to Western’s arrival. 


Along with construction of the backbone water delivery facility, the District’s Cajalco Treatment Plant for purification of Colorado River water for drinking, an intake on the Colorado River Aqueduct, and three storage tanks were also built. The Cajalco Treatment Plant was used for treatment of Colorado River water for Western’s retail domestic customers until 1993.

Until the late 1970's, the District’s sole source of imported water was the Colorado River. However, because of the mineral content of this water source, many communities within Western’s District had increasingly come under pressure to improve the quality of effluent discharged into the Santa Ana River Basin. One solution was to begin importing Northern California water, with its lower salt content, which had become available with construction of the State Water Project. Western began supplying Northern California water, treated at Metropolitan’s Henry J. Mills Water Treatment Plant in Riverside, in 1979.  


As a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), Western provides supplemental water to the cities of Corona, Norco, and Riverside and the water agencies of Box Springs Mutual, Eagle Valley Mutual,Elsinore Valley, Lee Lake and Rancho California. Western serves customers directly in Orangecrest, Mission Grove, El Sobrante, Eagle Valley, Temescal Canyon, Woodcrest, Lake Mathews, portions of Mead Valley and Perris, and March Air Reserve Base.