New Audio Tour Sheds Light On The Owens Valley and Los Angeles Aqueduct

Water has long been the most prized resource in Los Angeles. Indeed, the city’s history and growth is inextricably linked to the development of infrastructure required to import water from the Eastern Sierra and other regions.

While the Los Angeles River was the main water source for El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles when it was founded in 1781, population growth outstripped the river’s ability to meet the city’s increasing thirst. Enter William Mulholland, the first superintendent of the new municipal Water Department. Under his leadership, the city constructed the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a five-year project completed in 1913 that brought water from the lush Owens Valley to semi-arid Los Angeles.

Map from “There It Is – Take It!” web site.Much has been written about Los Angeles’s century long quest for water. It’s even been memorialized in Roman Polanski’s classic film Chinatown – and yet, there are many stories and perspectives related to this important facet of local history that are not well known but equally deserving of attention.

Looking to fill that gap and provide a more nuanced perspective on this topic is a new self-guided, downloadable audio tour through Owens Valley, California called There It Is—Take It! Produced by Kim Stringfellow, an artist/educator residing in Joshua Tree, California, this resource examines “the controversial social, political and environmental history of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The tour illuminates various impacts this divisive water conveyance infrastructure has created within the Owens Valley over the last one hundred years of [the] aqueduct’s existence.”

The audio tour is currently available for download on the There It Is—Take It! web site. While I’ve listened to some of this fascinating online resource and highly recommend you do the same, I really look forward to experiencing it when I next travel along US Route 395. If you’ll be heading to the Mammoth Lakes area this winter to enjoy the snow, this tour will provide you with a completely different perspective on the Owens Valley and the water you use everyday.

In the meantime, if you’re able to travel to Independence, CA tomorrow you can participate in a free listening party celebrating the launch of There It Is—Take It! Hosted by The Friends of the Eastern California Museum, this launch event will feature “a panel discussion concerning past, present and future issues related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct system and LADWP’s presence within the Owens Valley.”

The panel will include the following individuals, all of whom were interviewed for the audio tour project:

  • Mark Bagley, executive director, Owens Valley Committee (OVC)
  • Mike Prather, environmental activist (OVC, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter)
  • Nancy Masters, Inyo County librarian and community activist
  • Harry Williams, environmental activist (Bishop Paiute Tribal Member)


What: There It Is—Take It! Audio Tour Listening Party & Panel Discussion. Free to the public.

When: Sunday, October 14th, 2012, 7 to 9 pm

Where: Owens Valley School, Gym 202 South Clay Street
 Independence, CA 93526

Want to Learn More? Check out this Picture Tour of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, produced by Aquafornia