So this is it. November 5 is the big day, marking a century since water first cascaded from the Los Angeles Aqueduct into the San Fernando Valley in Sylmar.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is organizing a re-enactment of the opening 100 years ago when chief engineer William Mulholland famously proclaimed: "There it is. Take it." There will not be thousands of citizens at this event, as there were a century ago. The ceremony is by invitation only this time. And, really, we kind of take our water for granted now anyway, don't we? It's hard to imagine thousands of Angelenos trekking all the way across the valley to celebrate water today.
So the next evening, civic leaders will gather at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary on November 6, for a "civic ceremony" at the Exposition Park fountain at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony is open to the public and will include the creation of a time capsule to be opened 100 years from now in LA 2113. The leaders will then retire to the museum for an exclusive cocktail party and "taste of history" 1913-era dinner, with water, no doubt, from the aqueduct.
It will be interesting to see what they choose to include as markers of our time in the capsule. We're crowd-sourcing suggestions of our own over at Boom: A Journal of California and on the magazine's Facebook page and @boomcalifornia on Twitter using the hashtag #LA2113.
Not all of the centenary celebrations are so exclusive. "Just Add Water," an exhibition of large-scale watercolor paintings by L.A.-based artist Rob Reynolds is opening at the Natural History Museum on Tuesday and admission to the museum will be free that day and the next from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The watercolors reference key sites along the aqueduct's 233-mile route and moments throughout its 100-year history. The museum will also give away a special memento, a vial of water for the occasion, and visitors can add their names to the time capsule.
A different kind of party will take place on the evening of November 6 at Stetson Ranch Park in Sylmar, where 100 mules that have been making a commemorative trek along the LA Aqueduct will be corralled for the night. The Metabolic Studio is throwing a party for the mule wranglers, to celebrate Boom's current special issue on the aqueduct, and for the public to meet the crew, and especially the hardworking mules. The mules are symbolically carrying all that it would take to begin to build from scratch a new city for a new century, much as mules and human labor and ingenuity built the aqueduct a hundred years ago.
This turn from looking back to looking forward will be marked by another exhibition opening at the Bridge Gallery in Los Angeles City Hall on November 6. "Aqueduct Futures" was created by Barry Lehrman and Jonathan Links with 130 students from Cal Poly Pomona who designed solutions to enhance the resilience and adaptability of our aging water infrastructure and establish a road map to peace between Los Angeles and Owens Valley.
It's about time.
There is a lot of movement to heal the relationship between Los Angeles and Owens Valley. We've come a long way from "There it is. Take it." Mono Lake is on the mend. Revitalization of the Owens River is underway. But there is still no clear path to a consensus solution for Owens Lake, where 95,000 acre-feet of water a year -- a substantial portion of the water supply from Owens Valley -- is currently being used to keep down dust and create watery habitat for migrating birds on the dry lakebed, where the Owens River once spilled into the Great Basin desert. That habitat is another sign of healing. But the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is still at odds with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, which regulates air quality and dust control.
All of this history is worth observing, reflecting on, and commemorating. And when a peace agreement is finally signed at Owens Lake, we'll really have cause for celebration.