Despite a climate so closely resembling that of Athens, Rome and the 

Riviera that geographers have labeled it "Mediterranean," the myth persists 

that Los Angeles is located in the heart of a naturally arid wasteland.  A 1977 

op-ed headline in the Times labeled Los Angeles "the largest city ever built in 

a desert."  If so, it is the wettest desert the world has ever known, with an 

annual rainfall of 15 inches and a mean temperature of 62 degrees.

    Just when the residents first referred to sun-kissed Southern California as 

a desert is uncertain, but that view was already widespread in the 1880s.  Lack 

of rainfall during the agricultural growing season, a product of the dry 

summers found in a Mediterranean climate, was a quirk of nature unfamiliar to 

Anglos moving into the region from the East.  They now needed to irrigate to 

make crops and orchards grow, and their dependence upon river water rather than 

rainfall enforced the belief that they had migrated to a desert.

    Otis and his Times contributed to that view during the struggle in the 

1880s over ownership of water in the state's rivers.  In support of a bill to 

permit land owners who held no river frontage to withdraw water from a stream, 

the Times reprinted, approvingly, an editorial from San Francisco's Alta 

California predicting that failure to pass such legislation would return 

Southern California to the desert it had been before irrigation, making it once 

more the land of the horned toad and lizard.  That view was reflected in 

letters written to the Times by Angelenos themselves, such as the one below by 

"Anti Riparian." 

                      A) THE CITY'S RIGHT TO RIVER WATER

    The water that concerned most residents of Los Angeles County in the 1880s 

was that which flowed in and beneath the Los Angeles River.  Under Spanish law 

the pueblo owned the river water, a principle that was upheld early in the 19th 

century when Mission San Fernando diverted water for agricultural purposes.  

While the mission was allowed that privilege, it was with the understanding 

that river water belonged to the pueblo and if the pueblo needed more the 

mission would have to close its diversion channels.  Twenty years later, just 

before mission secularization, Mexican law also recognized the pueblo's sole 

claim to the water.

    The pueblo's title to the entire flow was also challenged under American 

law.  In the 1870s proprietors of the Los Feliz rancho, located upstream from 

the city in the vicinity of what became Griffith Park, diverted water from a 

ditch the Canal and Reservoir Company had built to supply the city with water.  

The city sued.  Native Angeleno Ygnacio Sepulveda, then judge of the 

Seventeenth Judicial District and subsequently one of the first two Superior 

Court judges in the county, ruled against the city {City of Los Angeles v. Leon 

Baldwin, 1874} and awarded the ranchers the amount of water they claimed they 

had taken for irrigation since 1853.  A second suit against Baldwin later in 

the decade drew the same verdict although this time the city appealed to the 

state Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's ruling in 1879.

    With their water rights in jeopardy, thereby threatening an agricultural 

base that covered nearly 7000 acres in the city, officials ignored the courts 

and, a few months after the Supreme Court ruling in the Baldwin case, closed 

the ditches watering the farms of several small owners between the Los Feliz 

ranch and the city.  Anastacio Feliz, Henry Elms and several others filed suit 

to force reopening of their ditches, expecting the superior court would follow 

the Baldwin precedent.  It did, but on appeal the Supreme Court found that 

Feliz, Elms and the others had always used river water by permission from the 

city and not as riparian owners.  Therefore the city retained its right to 

river water and was justified in blocking private ditches.   

    That did not affect the Baldwin decision, however, and residents feared 

that the river would not be able to meet the city's agricultural and domestic 

demands as long as the Los Feliz interests continued to divert their rightful 

amount.  Correspondents offered suggestions to the Times regarding the course 

of action to be taken.  "Regador," an anonymous writer whose pen name suggested 

a connection to the city council, wrote a series of letters condemning the 

Baldwin decisions and urging the council to act aggressively.  The unnamed 

author of the letter in the Herald was Jackson A. Graves, a prominent attorney 

who represented the owners of the Los Feliz ranch.  "Regador's" criticism of 

Judge Sepulveda was seconded by "Country Jake," whose letter brought a sharp 

rebuttal from "A Chinaman."  Col. John F. Godfrey, referred to by the letter 

writers, was city attorney from 1877-1880 and continued to act as special 

counsel for the city in water litigation after he left office.  Ironically, 

Erskine Ross, one of the attorneys whose failure to file a timely appeal with 

the Supreme Court may have cost the city a victory in the first Baldwin case, 

was elected to the California Supreme Court in 1880 and voted for the city in 

the Feliz-Elms decision.  In 1884 the city bought back the Los Feliz ranch 

water rights from its then owner, Griffith W. Griffith, for $50,000, thus 

regaining an exclusive right to the river's flow.

                          {Times, May 25, 1882, p. 3}

                              THE WATER QUESTION.

          The City's Right to the Water Should be Summarily Settled.

              Editor Times:--The people of Los Angeles are getting out 

         of patience with the recurrence every year of the lawless 

         meddling of the Feliz ranch owners or renters with the waters 

         of the river; and a correspondent in our evening contemporary 

         pertinently inquires if it is to never cease.

              Our people may as well make up their minds first as last 

         that they can never enjoy their right to the control of the 

         waters of the river, in peace and quietness, till the absurd 

         and mischievous decision of our former District Court in the 

         suit between the city and the owners of the Feliz ranch is 

         formally set aside, or else, as Col. Godfrey, special counsel 

         for the city in these water troubles, has all along advised 

         the City Council, till the right of way of the Canal and 

         Reservoir ditch is formally and legally condemned.

              If one or the other of these alternatives is inevitable 

         before the city can enjoy unvexed the full benefit of the 

         admirable and beneficent decision of the Supreme Court in the 

         Elms water suits, why should not the Council show itself 

         equal to the occasion and set about securing one or the 

         other, or, better still, both, without delay and not rest 

         till the water rights of the city are fully and finally 

         vindicated?  Till this is done we shall have chronic water 

         troubles.  Under color of the decision of the subordinate 

         court giving the Feliz ranch people the preposterous amount 

         of eight cubic feet per second--or ten times as much as they 

         were entitled to according to the findings of the Court 

         itself--they will continue to ignore the city's rights till 

         they are compelled to desist by the strong arm of the law.  

         There is a sure way, Col. Godfrey says, in which they may be 

         invoked.  Let the Council set legal machinery in motion at 

         once to secure that result.             


                          {Times, May 27, 1882, p. 3}

                           The Water Question Again.

           "Regador" Presents Some Forcible Facts for Consideration.

              Editor Times:  A correspondent in this morning's Herald, 

         in not very gentlemanly language, criticizes my communication 

         in yesterday's Times on the present status of the water 

         question.  But he therein, unintentionally, doubtless, 

         incidentally fortifies the position I took and employs my 

         urgent argument--that the city authorities should take 

         immediate legal steps to fully and finally vindicate its 

         rights in this matter.  I will endeavor, and without 

         resorting to personal abuse either, to make this clear to the 

         comprehension of your readers and to the agent of the owner 

         of the Feliz rancho, and the rest of mankind.

              Notwithstanding the fact that this city has, under 

         Spanish, Mexican and American rule, claimed and maintained, 

         without dispute, till lately, for more than one hundred 

         years, had control of all the waters of Los Angeles river; 

         and notwithstanding the late decision of the Supreme Court, 

         confirming to the city the control, the correspondent 

         aforesaid avows that the Feliz ranch people intend to use the 

         full amount of their eight cubic feet per second, whenever 

         the necessities of the ranch require it.  This would only 

         confirm what I said--that we should have chronic water 

         troubles till the city has fully vindicated its right, under 

         the late decision of the Supreme Court, to the control of the 

         waters of the river.

              Let us inquire a little into this preposterous claim of 

         eight cubic feet of water per second, for four hundred acres 

         of land, and see if it is likely to stand if contested, or if 

         it ought to stand.

              In the suit of Los Angeles vs. Baldwin, the District 

         Court "found" in substance (Finding xi.) that the city had 

         about eleven thousand acres of irrigable land and the Feliz 

         rancho about four hundred acres, and (Finding xvi.) that the 

         flow of water in the river at the point where defendants 

         diverted it, was about twenty-two cubic feet per second etc.; 

         and then, (Finding xvii.) that the defendants were entitled 

         to eight cubic feet of water per second!  Now if we put the 

         luminous reasoning of the Court in mathematical form, and 

         suppose further that it had "found" that the city had eleven 

         hundred acres of irrigable land and the Feliz rancho four 

         hundred acres, then it would have stood, according to the 

         rule of three, thus: 1100:400: 22:8--giving thereby to the 

         four hundred acres of the Feliz rancho, eight feet of water.  

         But unfortunately the Court "found" that the city had about 

         eleven thousand acres, instead of eleven hundred 

         acres--which, sad to say, knocks the bottom entirely out of 

         the Court's reasoning, on the "riparian" lay-out.  And 

         certainly there is no other theory on which the rancho can 

         base its unconscionable claims to eight cubic feet of water, 

         day and night!  It may be averred that a former Supreme Court 

         confirmed the above "adjudication of water rights," to which 

         it may be replied that a later and more intelligent Supreme 

         Court awarded to the city of Los Angeles the absolute control 

         of the waters of the Los Angeles river.  From which it must 

         follow, first or last, that all who use those waters for 

         irrigation, including the Feliz ranch owners, the successors 

         of Vignes and Wolfskill and others who dug the first ditches, 

         and Mr. Nadeau who has just constructed the last must come to 

         the Zanjero's office and buy the same, on a common footing, 

         as all but a few lawless persons are now doing, and ever have 

         done from time immemorial.

              To show the logical result of reasoning from the 

         postulates of the District Court in the case of Los Angeles 

         vs. Baldwin; by proportion as before, we have the following, 

         viz: 11,000 acres are to 400 acres, as 22 cubic feet are to 

         8-10 of one cubic foot! which last amount of water, according 

         to the Inexorable logic of the District Court, confirmed by 

         our former Supreme Court, is all that the Feliz ranch is 

         entitled to.

              I beg that the agent for the owner of the Feliz ranch 

         will put the above in his pipe and smoke it, with the 

         compliments of 


         Los Angeles, May 26, 1882.

                          {Times, May 31, 1882, p. 2}

                            MORE ABOUT CITY WATER.

            "Regador" Seems to have the Under Hold in the Argument.

              Editor Times:-- The agent of the Feliz ranch, evidently 

         seeing the hopelessness of fighting the "Rule of Three," as 

         laid down by our now defunct District Court, gives away his 

         case and concedes that the water was not apportioned to the 

         Baldwins according to their irrigable area--(one would say 

         not!  If every four hundred acres along the whole course of 

         the Los Angeles river were to be awarded eight cubic feet of 

         water per second, the Colorado would hardly furnish water 

         enough) but the ranch had formerly needed and used that much.

              Now I have no idea that the gentleman would 

         intentionally misrepresent the facts of the case.  But he is 

         merely off--he is mistaken--he lies under a mistake.  There 

         are plenty of people here who know that the Feliz ranch 

         owners never irrigated two hundred acres of land; in fact in 

         their first suit they only claimed that they irrigated 150 

         acres.  This claim of more than that is an afterthought.  

         Indeed this whole pretense of claiming the right to use the 

         water of the river or any part of it independent of the city 

         is a new-fangled notion that was never thought of till very 

         lately.  And as to the amount--eight cubic feet per 

         second--it is so preposterous that the only charitable view 

         we can take of it is that it was a mistake--an egregious 

         mistake to be sure, but still a mistake, from whatever point 

         we look at it.  From the stand point of the reasoning of the 

         Court, it was a palpable and obvious mistake, as I showed the 

         other day. If we study it from another and practical 

         standpoint it is equally so.

              Experience has demonstrated that one head of water will 

         irrigate ten acres of land in twenty-four hours.  According 

         to their own first very liberal estimate of 150 acres, they 

         were only entitled to fifteen heads, equal to one whole head 

         fifteen days, or half a head thirty days in each month, 

         instead of sixty full heads of twenty-four hours each per 

         month!  Why, if coupled with this astounding award the Court 

         had ordained, in order to guarantee to the ranch the full 

         amount of eight feet perpetually, that it should build a dam 

         at the lower end of its irrigable land, the owners would have 

         howled louder than any of us who live below the dam, at 

         having their land judicially dammed in this way and turned 

         into a cienega, and their protests would have come thick and 

         fast that they would not stand it to have such an amount of 

         water forced upon them by a dam site.  The owners would have 

         had a chance then, in the word of their agent, to "have 

         received the full force of the decision in favor of the 

         Baldwins" with a vengeance.

              As to my name, it is of no consequence: the facts and 

         the logic are the only things that signify in this as in most 



              Los Angeles, May 29, 1882.

                         {Times, June 14, 1882, p. 3}

                          THAT WATER QUESTION AGAIN.

               A "Country Jake" Rises to Inquire a Thing or Two.

              Editor Times:  Some of us country people, irrigators in 

         the southern part of the city, who have suffered much wrong 

         and vexation from the wanton acts of the Felis ranch people, 

         have watched with keen interest the discussion of the 

         question of the city's water rights in the daily papers, and 

         especially in the Times and Express.  And although we are 

         only plain country folk, there is one feature of the case 

         that has struck us very forcibly, which we have talked over 

         among ourselves, which I would like to point out in your 

         columns.  If Judge Sepulveda made the glaring mistake 

         attributed to him of awarding eight cubic feet of water to 

         400 acres of land--which is treble and quadruple the amount 

         of water the owners could possibly use on that quantity of 

         land, and ten times as much as they were entitled to 

         according to his own reasoning in the case, and if he is the 

         just Judge that we suppose he claims to be, why should he not 

         himself, of his own motion, take steps to right the great 

         wrong on the entire inhabitants of this city that he has 

         committed, and have that decision set aside?  He would by 

         such an act do more to show his fitness for the position he 

         now holds as well as for the high office he aspires to, than 

         by any other act he could perform.  So long as that 

         unfortunate decision stands, so long will the irrigators of 

         this city be subjected to endless vexation and loss by the 

         wastefulness of the Felis ranch renters, who perpetrate the 

         same each year under color of Judge Sepulveda's decision.  We 

         may be simple-minded folk, but we can't help thinking he 

         would raise himself immensely in the estimation of all lovers 

         of the right, and of the just, if he would resolutely set 

         about remedying a great and glaring wrong, which he, and he 

         alone, is responsible for.

                                            COUNTRY JAKE.

                         {Times, June 18, 1882, p. 3}

                         STATUS OF THE WATER QUESTION.

                "A Chinaman" Doesn't Agree with "Country Jake."

              Editor Times:  Much is being said and written regarding 

         the decision of the Judge of the late Seventeenth District 

         Court, in the case of Baldwin et al vs. Los Angeles City.  As 

         many of the remarks made are wide of the facts, and the 

         suggestions of your "Country Jake" correspondent today evince 

         such a lamentable ignorance of the matter, I make no apology 

         in presenting the matter as it stands of record.

              On the 20th of July, 1874, an injunction suit was 

         commenced by the Mayor and Common Council of the city of Los 

         Angeles against Leon McL. Baldwin, and others, to enjoin them 

         from diverting the waters of the river running in the Canal 

         and Reservoir Company's ditch, and obstructing the flow 

         thereof.  Messrs. Thom, Ross and A. W. Hutton represented the 

         city.  The case went to judgment, and the Court decided, upon 

         the proof presented, that the defendants had not taken any 

         more than the fair proportion of water they were entitled to 

         as riparian proprietors.  From this judgment an appeal was 

         taken to the Supreme Court, where the case was dismissed 

         because the transcript on appeal was not filed within the 

         statutory time.  In this way the plaintiff, the city, lost 

         its right of appeal, and the judgment of the lower court 

         became a finality.

              On the 28th of March, 1877, F. A. MacDougall, then Mayor 

         of Los Angeles city, filed a complaint to quiet title against 

         Leon McL. Baldwin and others, claiming the full, free, and 

         extensive use of all the water in the Los Angeles river, its 

         springs, sources and ditches, with the right to regulate and 

         control the use and distribution of the water.  The city's 

         representative this time was Col J. F. Godfrey.  Upon the 

         showing made in this case (which is said to have been the 

         first suit the world knew of to quiet title to water) the 

         court held that the matter was res adjudicata, the judgment 

         in the first suit covering the same subject matter having 

         grown into a final decree, which gave the defendants the 

         right to appropriate and use upon the Los Feliz ranch the 

         amount of water they had theretofore used; namely, two 

         irrigating heads.  Upon the testimony introduced it stood 

         uncontroverted that the two heads were necessary for the Los 

         Feliz people; they were using it and had used it.  And 

         perhaps it may be well to say here, for "Country Jake's" 

         benefit, that it is a commonly indulged presumption that 

         judgments of courts are based upon the proof submitted.

              The appellate court was resorted to, to test the 

         validity of this second judgment, and in delivering its 

         opinion says there was no evidence to sustain the claim set 

         up by the city that it was the owner of the corpus of the 

         water in the Los Angeles river.  In the former action the 

         defendants were declared upper riparian proprietors on the 

         river, and entitled to the quantity of water they diverted.  

         At the time of the commencement of the second suit according 

         to the testimony, the diversion of the waters of the river 

         was being conducted by both parties under the same conditions 

         that existed when the first suit was brought, and while these 

         conditions remained unchanged the judgment rendered in the 

         former action operates as a bar.  In other words, the city 

         twice disputed the right of Baldwin to use two heads of 

         water, the matter was referred to all the courts and the 

         final decision of the highest tribunal of the state, is that 

         Baldwin and his grantees may use the two heads of water they 

         have heretofore appropriated.

              If the city had shown at the proper stage of the case 

         that two heads of water was more than was requisite or proper 

         to use on the Feliz ranch, the court was bound to have 

         decided accordingly.

              In view of the fact that the defendants claim ripened 

         into title on the 3rd of April, 1879, by the decision of our 

         Supreme Court, I apprehend that no one but a "Country Jake" 

         would have the hardihood to suggest the ridiculous 

         proposition that the presiding Judge of the late District 

         Court, who tried the case, should of his own motion set aside 

         the judgment of the Supreme Court, because I maintain that, 

         in affirming the judgment of the District Court, the Supreme 

         Court adopted it.  And in this connection I would commend to 

         the attention of "Country Jake" the fact that however 

         desirous a Judge may be to set aside a final judgment, it is 

         happily and properly placed outside his province so to do.

                                                 A CHINAMAN.

              Los Angeles, June 14, 1882.


    While Hispanic law had recognized that river water belonged to those who 

held possession of the river bank {riparian rights}, the practice in the 

western United States was that those who first appropriated the water, 

regardless of their location, had a prior right {"First in time, first in 

right."}  These two views clashed in California, leading to one of the state 

Supreme Court's most controversial decisions, Lux v. Haggin.  In early 1886 the 

high court ruled, 4-3, for riparian rights in that case, which concerned the 

diversion of Kern River water.  The court reasoned that under English common 

law, which California had adopted in 1850, riparian rights were guaranteed.  

Erskine Ross, the former lawyer for the city of Los Angeles, wrote the dissent.  

The powerful Miller-Lux land partnership, which held a vast acreage along fifty 

miles of the Kern, was deemed the rightful owner of the flow rather than a 

canal company, owned by developers James Haggin and Col. William B. Carr, that 

appropriated water from the stream to irrigate land away from the river.  

    The decision posed a threat to large areas of California with no riparian 

water rights, especially in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.  

While the city of Los Angeles, both as a riparian owner and as a holder of 

pueblo rights, could continue to furnish irrigation water to agriculturalists 

within the city, other parts of the county had neither claim to water.  Those 

who opposed the decision referred to themselves as Anti-riparians, or "Antis."  

"Anti Riparian," with a classic "We made the desert bloom" argument, voiced 

that concern in this letter written two months after the court's decision.  

"The Supreme Court's august son in law" was Abbot Kinney, prominent Southern 

Californian businessman and orchardist who was married to the daughter of state 

Supreme Court Justice James Thornton, a member of the four-man majority in Lux 

v. Haggin.

                         {Times, June 20, 1886, p. 2}

                               If Not, Why Not?

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Will you, or some one 

         else, be so kind as to rise up on end and inform a puzzled 

         public why, under the recent declaration of our great 

         Riparian Supreme Court any one, particularly a land owner at 

         the lower extremity of a stream, where it might, could or 

         would have run, may not now, without let or hindrance, 

         proceed to demolish and remove all dams and obstructions 

         placed therein by the Antis?  Is there any bar at all between 

         our beautiful homes, our orange groves and vineyards, and 

         ruin and destruction, save our own strong right arms and 

         faithful Winchesters?  Why may not Pasadena again be 

         relegated to her primeval condition as a first-class pasture 

         ranch for the festive jack rabbit and the baa-ing sheep?  

         What is to prevent Los Angeles from once more becoming the 

         favorite breeding place of the frisky squirrel, and the 

         plaintive ground-owl?  Why may not some one return to its 

         native canyon the waters that now fructify and make glad the 

         fruitful orchards and groves of the Supreme Court's august 

         son in law?  True the ghost of old ma Davis might thereafter 

         at midnight haunt the scene of desolation, but what of that?  

         "It's English, you know," this decision, and we ought not to 

         complain.   What shall prevent the impoverished descendants 

         of some of the old Conquistadores from returning the waters 

         of the Santa Ana to their original bed, wherewith to quench 

         the thirst of a few miserable bovines and broncos, and 

         burros.  Riverside and Anaheim, and Orange and Santa Ana, 

         would perish from the face of the earth, but it would be in 

         accordance with law--as at present defined by a majority of 

         our Supreme Court.  Dust and desert they were a few short 

         years since, and to dust and desert they may return.  

         Probably to some similar decision of the high old Supreme 

         Courts of Egypt and Assyria is due the ruin and oblivion that 

         to-day shroud the history, and mark the sites of Karnak and 

         Thebes and mighty Babylon.  They have utterly perished, but 

         the Nile and Euphrates flow onward in undiminished volume to 

         the sea forever.

                                            ANTI RIPARIAN.

              Los Angeles, June 16, 1886.

    At the end of August, 1886, the Republican State Convention met in Los 

Angeles to nominate candidates, including Supreme Court justices, for the 

forthcoming statewide elections.  Party leaders seemed committed to legislative 

action designed to lessen the impact of Lux v. Haggin.  Since the decision had 

apparently little adverse effect on the water rights that accompanied Hispanic 

land grants, Southern Californians with such holdings were reluctant to tinker 

with the court's decision.  They even suggested that Northern California 

Republican leaders such as Haggin's associate William Carr may have had an 

ulterior motive when they sought to legislatively alter the decision.  Times 

editor Otis urged that his party act with restraint.  After quoting the 

principle portions of the court's ruling in Lux v. Haggin as reported in the 

headnotes accompanying printed copies of that decision, "A Southern 

Californian" was more blunt.  

                         {Times, Aug. 25, 1886, p. 2}

                              The Water Question.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  The attention of the 

         delegates to the Republican State Convention is respectfully 

         called to the following points relative to the water 

         question.  The case of Lux vs. Haggin decides--

              First--"A private corporation cannot divert the waters 

         of a water-course and thereby deprive the riparian 

         proprietors of all use of the same without compensation made 

         or tendered, to such proprietors.

              Second--"The owners of land by or through which a 

         water-course naturally and usually flows have a right of 

         property in the waters of the stream.

              Third--"This property may be taken for a public use, 

         just compensation being first made or paid into court.

              Fourth--"Water to supply 'farming neighborhoods,' is a 

         public use, and it is for the Legislature to determine 

         whether, in the exercise of the power of eminent domain, it 

         is necessary or expedient to provide further legal machinery 

         for the appropriation (on due compensation) of private rights 

         to the flow of running streams and the distribution of water 

         to public uses.

              Fifth--"One private person cannot take his property from 

         another, either for the use of the taker or for an alleged 

         public use, without any compensation paid or tendered.  

         Const. Art. 1, sec. 14.

              Sixth--"Riparian owners may reasonably use water of the 

         stream for purposes of irrigation."

              Wherein is this decision unfair or unjust?  Again, 

         Justice Ross, in his dissenting opinion, (fourth, West Coast 

         Reporter, 273,) lays down an important principle, which 

         appears to have been lost sight of by all parties to this 

         controversy, viz., "The doctrine of appropriation as 

         contradistinguished to that of riparian rights," was not 

         intended to, and indeed could not, affect the rights of those 

         persons holding under grants from the Spanish or Mexican 

         governments--first, because the doctrine is expressly limited 

         to the waters upon what is known as the public lands; and, 

         secondly, because the rights of such grantees are protected 

         by the treaty with Mexico and the good faith of the 

         Government.  It is the rights of such riparian proprietors as 

         those that are unaffected by the doctrine of appropriation, 

         and those are the riparian rights that are excepted from the 

         operation of the provisions of the civil code in relation to 

         "Water rights," by section 1422 of that code, which reads:  

         "The rights of riparian proprietors are not affected by the 

         provisions of this title."  And Chief Justice Morrison and 

         Justice Myrick concurred in the dissenting opinion of Justice 


              The scope of this principle, upon which the entire court 

         are a unit (except as to the limitation expressed by Justice 

         Ross) will be appreciated in all that portion of Southern 

         California covered by Spanish or Mexican land grants; and 

         delegates and their constituents who may not be informed as 

         to what was really decided in the case of Lux vs. Haggin, or 

         who have been misled by the glaring misrepresentation of that 

         decision by the "appropriators" or their organs, will at once 

         perceive that all communities carved out of Spanish or 

         Mexican grants have "vested" rights of which neither the 

         Legislature not the courts can deprive them "without just 

         compensation," and that their rights rest on the "riparian 


              Again:  The present laws relating to appropriation, 

         while they may be amended to limit the quantity which may be 

         hereafter appropriated,--by any one person--and perhaps in 

         other respects, are sufficient for the purpose.

              Rights heretofore acquired under existing laws, cannot 

         be divested by any amendment to the Constitution, or any acts 

         of the Legislature.

              Any attempt to do so will simply subject the people to a 

         series of suits to determine the force and effect, the 

         validity or invalidity of such amendments or acts, and in the 

         mean time titles to land and water are clouded and the timid 

         Eastern capitalist who is pouring into "Southern California" 

         will refuse to invest until these questions are settled.  No 

         man desires to "buy into a lawsuit."  Where, then, is our 

         "Boom?"  In this connection, we desire information on the 

         question, "Is it a fact that Carr and his friends are 

         attempting to secure the delegates from the northern portions 

         of the State, to vote for a resolution indorsing the 

         appropriators, with a view to securing such legislation as 

         will involve us in litigation, and enable them to point with 

         pride to the 'Northern Citrus Belt,' where irrigation and 

         water litigation are unknown?"  We do not believe this can be 

         accomplished, if the delegates understand the situation.  

         Many are in favor of the State controlling all the water.  

         This seems to be impracticable.  The water would have to be 

         purchased by the State, and a new army of officers, to "run 

         the machine," would make life a burden to the poor 

         irrigators.  The only relief that appears to be possible, is 

         to pass laws to secure the equitable distribution of the 

         water--among the owners of the rights to its use--by men 

         elected or appointed by themselves in the various districts 

         where irrigation is practiced.

                                          A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIAN.

              Los Angeles, Aug. 24.


    The platform that the Republicans adopted supported neither riparians nor 

appropriators, and neither Carr-Haggin nor Miller-Lux found comfort in it.  By 

1887, however, the legislature, under pressure from the animosity created by 

the court's Lux v. Haggin decision, was ready to reform California water law in 

the interest of irrigators without riparian rights.  In response to the 

suggestion that the state simply eliminate riparian rights, "Farmer" briefly 

traced the history of riparianism in California and offered a compromise.

                          {Times, Feb. 5, 1887, p. 6}

                             The Water Question.




              El Monte, Feb. 1.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  It is 

         reported that the Senate Committee on Irrigation have agreed 

         to recommend the repeal of section 1422, Civil Code, which 

         recognizes riparian ownership.

              Will this be good, or will it open a Pandora's box of 


              In olden times the Mexican government granted the 

         60,000,000 (speaking approximately) of our acres to about 

         2000 rancheros, giving to each, say, from 30,000 to 55,000 

         acres.  Every grant bordered on a stream, which, or its use, 

         belonged to the land.  Without the water the grants would 

         have been valueless.  These grants supported some 3,000,000 

         of cattle, whose daily consumption was many millions of 


              There was not a well in the whole State.  These streams 

         also supplied the house and a diminutive irrigation.

              Agriculture outside of the mission, it may be said, was 

         unknown; and the Americans, in 1848-49, considered it 


              Now, all these things are right opposite.  The 

         rancheros, their lands and their cattle have been replaced by 

         over 75,000 farmers, located generally away from the rivers; 

         and the water, which is of little or no use in the beds of 

         the streams, as of old, is vital to the farmer.  Yet, doesn't 

         it follow that riparianism can be made of no effect by the 

         repeal of this section, and will it not open the way to much 

         and prolonged litigation, which will curse the State for 

         years, as in the case of the ranches?  Would it not be better 

         to let this section rest and to adopt the suggestion of our 

         most accomplished State engineer, William Ham Hall, to wit, 

         to treat it as a police question, allowing the riparian 

         owners limited use of the waters.  This will prevent 

         litigation, give peace and general use and will harm no one.  

         The writer, though a riparian owner, deems it for the best 

         interests of all that the millions of gallons of surplus 

         water running to waste in the river beyond what he uses 

         should go to the people.

              There is water for all if it be properly saved and 

         properly distributed under such regulation as the State 

         Engineer has recommended.                    


    Adoption in 1887 of the Wright Act, written and introduced by assemblyman 

Christopher C. Wright of Stanislaus County, provided a process by which farmers 

without riparian rights could form an irrigation district and legally obtain 

river water.  Erskine Ross, by this time a federal judge in Southern 

California, declared the act unconstitutional in one of the earliest test 

cases.  On appeal, the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the law.  

    As water historian William Kahrl has noted, the Wright act in its early 

form "was ineffectual at ensuring the fiscal integrity of the districts," 

resulting in the failure of many of those organized immediately after adoption 

of the act.  This short, anonymous letter printed in the Times a few weeks 

after passage of the Wright Act suggests a reason.

                         {Times, April 12, 1887, p. 6}

                                 Law and Land.

              Anaheim, April 9.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  Land-

         owners are needs much interested in all that concerns 

         irrigation, and have tried to master the Wright law.  They 

         have got as far as section 6, and, not finding anything about 

         irrigation, have come to a dead stop and given up the study 

         of the remaining forty-eight sections.  Is Mr. Wright a 

         lawyer?  It is painfully distressing to see a community where 

         the wisest and best chosen to legislate can pass such legal 

         verbiage as law.  Poor landowners, and poorer zanjeros, if 

         they shall keep all that stuff in their heads in order to 

         keep the water running in their ditches.

                           C) WATER DELIVERY SYSTEMS

    From the earliest days of settlement residents of the pueblo had diverted 

river water into ditches to supply both their domestic and agricultural needs.  

Zanjas, as the ditches were called, meandered through the community and were 

the responsibility of the town council.  The zanjero, essentially a water 

commissioner, was in charge of the system.

    After American acquisition of Los Angeles the water system remained 

organizationally unchanged but expanded to meet an increased demand as more 

acres came under cultivation.  At its peak in the mid-1880s city water 

irrigated approximately 10,000 acres, carried through the city by nine separate 

zanjas.  By 1887, with residential lots replacing groves and vineyards, the 

area under irrigation had decreased and the city began to abandon the zanjas.  

Ditch No. 5 was the first to go, in 1888.  By 1904 all were gone.

    While the zanjas were intended to supply domestic water, the contaminated 

nature of ditch water encouraged residents to obtain their drinking water 

elsewhere.  Those who could afford it bought drinking water from door-to-door 

peddlers who sold it in jugs or, later, from a water wagon.  Efforts to pipe 

water began in the 1850s.  After several failed attempts the franchise to 

deliver domestic water went to what became the Los Angeles City Water Company 

in 1868 in the form of a thirty year lease.  The company, whose major 

stockholders included Prudent Beaudry, was to obtain most of its water from 

Crystal Springs on the Los Feliz ranch but was also permitted to draw a small 

amount from the river.  

    Complaints about the service provided by the Los Angeles City Water Company 

became a frequent topic of letter writers.  "Citizen" and "Pluvius" typified 

those concerns. 

                         {Times, July 11, 1883, p. 4}

                           The Water Company Rapped.     

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  I see by the report of 

         the Common Council proceedings Saturday night that sundry 

         hydrants were ordered put up, and that the water company 

         should be requested to send in its bills for the same.  Is it 

         not a fact that by the terms of the water company's franchise 

         that corporation is obliged to put up hydrants without cost 

         to the city?  And is it possible that the Council does not 

         know that fact?  Again, does it not behoove the Council to 

         take note of the fact pointed out by the Zanjero, that the 

         water company is constantly and greatly increasing the amount 

         of water that it takes from the river, and to ask where is 

         going to be the limit of its appropriations, and if it can 

         always go on appropriating the people's water without money 

         and without price, although it does not sell it back to the 

         people without money and without price by a long ways?


                          {Times, May 21, 1889, p. 5}

                                 Water! Water!     

              East Los Angeles, May 20.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         The householders of Primrose avenue, East Los Angeles, would 

         thank The Times if it would remind the City Water Company 

         that the supply of water furnished them by that corporation 

         is wholly inadequate to their wants.  Their trees, shrubs, 

         grass and flowers are dying, not to mention the ever-

         recurring inconvenience to indispensable household and 

         hygienic demands for want of water.  An abundant supply of 

         water is an essential condition of the contract between the 

         citizens, when they promised to pay the water rates and the 

         company when it assumed to furnish that supply.  The company 

         collects its water rates with commendable promptness and 

         zeal, but it supplies the precious fluid only at such times 

         and in such quantities as its seeming "public-be-damned" 

         sentiments dictate.  During last summer the City Council, 

         heeding the reiterated complaints of the people of the 

         vicinity named, who, through all the hot, dry months, 

         suffered little less than a water famine, required the water 

         company to lay down a larger supply pipe on Griffin avenue, 

         which would have met the difficulty of the situation, but the 

         rich corporation found means of getting this order rescinded, 

         and the people and taxpayers were left, as usual, in the 

         lurch.  The dry season is now again upon us, and finds the 

         people referred to in the condition it left them last 

         year--often for days without any water at all, and never with 

         a supply adequate to their wants.  Will the City Council 

         compel the water company to put down a four-inch main on 

         Primrose avenue?  In case of fire, there is not a house at 

         the present moment in that avenue which could supply a hose 

         stream sufficient to extinguish a good-sized match.


    There was a particular flurry of letters to the Times critical of the water 

companies in the summer of 1885.  At that point the state Supreme Court had 

just ruled in McCrary v. Beaudry that the water companies had an obligation to 

supply water to consumers and could not suspend service without reasonable 

cause.  Of primary concern to most complainants was the quality of the water 

supplied by the companies.  But when city health officer Dr. John S. Baker 

suggested that a committee of doctors test the purity of the water, two 

citizens objected.  John Dunigan's directory listing was simply "capitalist."

                         {Times, July 15, 1885, p. 4}

                               The City's Water.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Noticing in your paper 

         that "Health Officer Baker is moving to have a committee of 

         the best physicians to analyze the water used by our citizens 

         for domestic purposes," I beg leave to express the wish that 

         he will do nothing of the kind, for I question if there is 

         the chemical knowledge with our "best physicians" to perform 

         the task, although they may be nearly all professors in our 

         local medical college.  The test should be made by a chemist 

         known to be a skillful analysist, who makes the business a 

         specialty.  The Water Company can easily buy off a white-

         washing report.

              It is rumored that such an analysis was made, but it was 

         decidedly against the healthfulness of the water, that 

         interested parties paid a large sum to have it suppressed.

              The writer drinks nothing but water.  During a long life 

         and experience in various cities, he is decidedly of the 

         opinion that the water furnished this city is the most 

         loathsome and unhealthy of any water before offered the 

         citizens of any community.  The fact that it is so impure and 

         filthy doubtless is a reason used by the directors of the 

         Water Company to justify their consciences for charging such 

         exorbitant prices for their detestable compound.

              Surely no temperance community could flourish when to be 

         a teetotaler one is compelled to use such a loathsome 


              Don't let any local chemists white-wash this article, 

         but let there be a fair analysis made by a chemist who 

         understands the business and cannot be under the influence of 

         the water ring of this city.  If funds are needed for the 

         purpose, I will contribute my share towards the expense.  

                                               A VICTIM.

                         {Times, July 29, 1885, p. 2}

                           The City Domestic Water.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  A short time ago the 

         Health Officer requested the Council to appoint a commission 

         of the best physicians to analyze the city water.  Dr. Baker 

         now requests that the special commission be empowered to send 

         a demijohn from each water system to the State Chemist for 

         analysis.  What tomfoolery is that!  Has the inspector 

         discovered that no one has been inside of a chemical 

         laboratory but the State official?  If this official must be 

         appealed to, why appoint the commission?  At the next meeting 

         the Health Officer likely will advise the Council to ask the 

         water company to fill the jugs, if they are to carry samples 

         to be tested.

              Now let us look at the facts as they really appear to 

         those who are acquainted with the city supply, and see if it 

         is only necessary to analyze to know of its fitness for 

         domestic use.

              For several miles a ditch is made on the base of the 

         foothills, along one side of Los Angeles River, to the 

         reservoir, where all the slush in this open ditch carries an 

         accumulation of dead matter, animal and vegetable, the juice 

         of which forms a compound sediment of most detestable stuff.  

         Draw from any of the water-pipes a tub of water and let it 

         stand for forty-eight hours, and you have, at the bottom, a 

         slimy paste mixed with torn fish and other flesh sufficient 

         to disgust a horse.

              If this is the case at this season of year, what will it 

         be when showers take place and the sides of the foothills are 

         well washed down?  Will the analysis tell of the catalogue of 

         dead things we drink the liquid of?  No sir, it is a ruse to 

         throw the responsibility of a knock-kneed corporation on the 

         State Chemist.

              The reservoir, which is no better than a filthy pond, it 

         is said, supplies the people of East Los Angeles when there 

         is water in it.

              Human excrement and an abundance of foul stuff can be 

         found ready to be washed in with the first shower of rain.  

         On one side is a very shallow ditch, but it can't turn the 

         water of a smart shower for ten minutes.  All the wash from 

         the side of the hill must go in the water.

              It is asked in all candor, is it necessary to get a 

         State official to analyze such water?  Is there a man or 

         woman that does not know the condition of the water who uses 

         it?  There is not such another pollution for a city like this 

         between the oceans.  As it now seems it can be rated but 

         little better than sewer water.

                                              J. DUNIGAN.

              322 Downey ave., East Los Angeles.   

    When the Los Angeles City Water Company decided that it would be 

unprofitable to supply water to homes in the hill region immediately west of 

the business district, Prudent Beaudry sold his stock in the company and 

obtained a franchise covering that area.  Along with his brother, Victor, and 

J. Wesley Potts, Beaudry was deeply involved in developing the hill lands and 

realized that without water his project would be severely handicapped.  The 

Beaudrys formed what became the Citizens' Water Company, but their customers 

were as unhappy with the service and charges as were those supplied by the 

older company.  As the decade neared its end, residents saw little improvement 

and began to consider municipal ownership of the system.  The company, as noted 

in its reply, felt the criticism should be directed toward the city council 

rather than the company.

                          {Times, July 3, 1888, p. 6}

                          A Loud Call For More Water.

              Los Angeles, June 29.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         The residents on the hills are anxiously wishing for a good 

         water system that would be adequate to supply all ordinary 

         demands.  The system as now conducted is of very little use, 

         but, of course, it is better than none.  In case of fire, it 

         is almost useless.  Parties are not inclined to build while 

         the present management continues.  The small and rotten pipes 

         through which the scanty supply is furnished should at once 

         be removed and larger and better ones put in their place.  

         The present system is a fraud on consumers that are paying an 

         exorbitant price for the little they receive.  About one-half 

         of the water escapes from the defective pipes, as any one can 

         see that passes over the streets in this locality.  Are we to 

         wait and suffer at the sweet will of such a dilatory company?  

         We say if they are not able to equip their water system in a 

         proper manner, so as to furnish a sufficient supply to meet 

         our demands, let them hoist the white flag, as they should 

         have done ere this, and let some other company, or the city, 

         take hold of it that knows how, and is able to rectify its 


              Hoping that our able advocate, The Times, will aid us in 

         this matter by giving publicity to this card, we remain 

         yours, etc.,                       

                                         MANY CITIZENS.

                         {Times, Feb. 10, 1889, p. 5}

                             Excessive Water Rates.

              Los Angeles, Feb. 4.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         was glad to see the other day the letter from a correspondent 

         relative to the outrageous rates charged for water.  It is 

         time each consumer puts to himself and to each other the 

         question:  How much longer are we going to submit to this 


              The charges are altogether out of all proportion to the 

         prime cost of supply.

              Once a year the Council fixes the rates to be charged by 

         the water companies, but it treats the action as only a 

         farce, and continue to make and enforce their unreasonable 

         demands.  If the Council has the power to fix the rates for 

         the year, why, then, in common justice, enforce them.  If 

         there is any uncertainty in the matter, let a test case be 

         taken in court.  Not only are the charges burdensome, but 

         consumers have to put up with the arbitrary conduct on the 

         part of the collectors.  There are only four of us in family, 

         yet I have to pay to the Citizens' Water Company $2.50 per 

         month.  The tenants of a six-room cottage, nearly next door, 

         also pay the same amount.  The inevitable has come in the 

         shape of reduced rents, and it has also to come in reduced 

         charges for water, or by the City Fathers taking the supply 

         into their own hands.  Yours respectfully,


                         {Times, July 27, 1889, p. 3}

                           Equity in Water Charges.

              Los Angeles, July 26.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  In 

         Oakland and San Francisco there are 18 different ratings for 

         dwellings up to 4000 square feet of floor surface, occupied 

         by a single family; larger houses no especial rating.

              Then for each water closet and bathtub there is a 

         separate charge.  All of this is claimed to be consolidated 

         into one charge in the Los Angeles ordinance, and there is 

         but one charge whether a tenement has one room or 20 rooms, 

         no bathtubs or 10 bath tubs, no water closets or 10 water 


              The rate of the largest tenement in Los Angeles is made 

         the same as the smallest tenement.

              Dwellings are not mentioned.

              Suppose the City Council said the milk bill, or meat 

         bill, or bread bill, or gas bill, of every family in the city 

         must be the same, without regard to the amount of milk, or 

         meat, or bread, or gas used, could such an ordinance be 


              It is as equitable to have only one charge for water 

         used in each tenement in the city, without reference to its 

         size or amount of water used.  Respectfully,

                                  CITIZENS' WATER COMPANY.

    Until 1887 the Beaudry system drew water from a spring located near College 

and Alameda streets.  Once known as Abila springs, it was the source of water 

used by the first franchise holder to supply domestic water in the 1850s and 

lay in a marshy area not far from the river.  The quality of that water 

disturbed "Old Settler," author of several letters on sewage and water.  Along 

with his criticism of Beaudry's product, "Old Settler" suggested a theme that 

several other writers would support later in the decade: the importation of 

water from mountainous regions beyond the river basin.

                         {Times, July 18, 1885, p. 2}

                              The Water Question.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  I am glad to see that 

         you are allowing the people a chance to speak out on the 

         water question, in your paper.  For years I have considered 

         the infamous water furnished to the inhabitants of this city 

         as the greatest evil with which we have to contend in Los 

         Angeles.  In its vital importance to us it dwarfs the Chinese 

         question, the "bug" question, the temperance question, the 

         want of manufactures, and all others of which we talk, for in 

         the language of the Revised Version of the New Testament, 

         "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and 

         lose his own life?"  Heretofore I have never attempted to 

         write anything on this subject, because I thought it would be 

         no use.  The city seemed so completely under the control of 

         the two crushing water Juggernauts of Los Angeles, that it 

         appeared idle to attempt any reform; and I, like thousands of 

         others, have been victimized for years by a system which is 

         fraud and robbery combined, and have been, during all that 

         time, paying more for a vile stuff called water, but which is 

         not water, than it has cost me for bread, and have opened not 

         my mouth.  But since the decision of the Supreme Court in the 

         case of McCrary vs. Beaudry, and the stand taken by several 

         writers in your paper, I begin to see a gleam of hope.

              In the first place, while in my opinion, the water 

         supplied by Beaudry is far cleaner and more wholesome than 

         the City Water, neither one is or ever will be fit for human 

         beings to drink.  Especially so in this century when we know 

         how to convey water in pipes from mountains, over elevations, 

         across depressions and finally forcing it, by the power of 

         gravity only, to the level of its source.  There is no excuse 

         other than avarice or ignorance for a wide-awake city like 

         this having bad water, in this age of the world.  I can well 

         believe the accounts of the filth and animalculae contained 

         in our drinking water, and of the insufficiency of the 

         supply.  But this is not the root of the trouble.  The river 

         water is nothing but seepage alkali water, and in my opinion, 

         the Beaudry water is simply surface water which has seeped 

         through from the river to the low point at which it appears 

         at the so-called "springs."   Date street, between Beaudry's 

         "spring" and the river, near George E. Long's residence is 

         said to lie some six feet higher than said "spring," the 

         source of the Beaudry water supply, and wells can be obtained 

         by boring only a very few feet in that locality.  That such 

         water must necessarily, as well as the river water, (from 

         which it probably comes) seep through into the Beaudry water, 

         admits of no doubt.  Therefore, in reality, the two waters 

         are one.  The Beaudry may be a little better in that it is 

         strained though a half mile or so of surface ground, but that 

         it will eventually be rendered totally unfit for use by the 

         drainage from the dense population centering around the 

         railroad depot, I have no manner of doubt, in addition to its 

         intrinsic badness.

              Alkali is a salt, according to the best authorities, an 

         excess of which in drinking water, in addition to other 

         deleterious effects on the human system, tends to abnormally 

         solidify the bones; to ossify the structural and valvular 

         machinery of the heart; to clog up, harden and render weak 

         the circulation of blood through the veins and arteries, 

         through its deposit in the system of particles of solid and 

         foreign matter; to thin down and render weak the interior 

         surfaces of the coatings of the veins and arteries; to eat 

         into and break down the tissues of the brain; to produce 

         kidney affections, heart disease and a dozen other diseases.  

         The "Los Angeles River" is a slough which rises in a plain 

         out of an alkali marsh.  It has neither head nor mouth.  It 

         run through alkali its whole length.  Its water is death. If 

         its water be boiled in a tea-kettle it will leave a crust 

         deposit that will ring like a piece of metal when dropped on 

         the floor.  That it is responsible for the great number of 

         deaths from "heart disease," so-called, here, I am fully 

         convinced.  I have no confidence in analyses. The money-

         loving owners of "water stock," can always "fix" them.  

         Either the water or the chemists will be "doctored," and like 

         the bank commissioners' report on a fraudulent and failing 

         bank, everything will "show up" lovely.  But the fact remains 

         that water will dissolve alkali, and hold it in solution and 

         alkali in excess is opposed to human life.

              The mountains are near us, and there is no doubt that by 

         going a not unreasonable distance, pure mountain water could 

         be brought into this city that would, with good sewerage, 

         make it what Nature intended it should be, a healthy city, 

         and which I do not believe it now is.

                                             OLD SETTLER.

                          {Times, Feb. 6, 1886, p. 2}

             Effect of the Sewer on the Beaudry Supply Reservoir.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Several months ago I 

         wrote some articles to your paper in which I referred to the 

         badness of the drinking water supplied to the city of Los 

         Angeles, both by the Los Angeles City Water Company, and the 

         Beaudry system.  In speaking of my views you editorially 

         remarked that they were probably too extreme to have much 

         influence.  One of the most extreme of my claims then was 

         that "the Beaudry water" is but the contaminated surface 

         seepage from the river; and to the extent that it percolates 

         through the soil but a few feet below the vaults and drains 

         of the nearby population living on Date street, and in the 

         vicinity of the new depot, is worse even than the alkaline 

         waters of the river, which carry so much disease-breeding 

         organic matter, in addition to their intrinsic chemical 

         unfitness for human use.  Besides the editorial left-hander, 

         a carping critic arose who knew all about the matter.  He 

         showed that the "Beaudry water" came welling straight up, 

         pure and undefiled, from sub-mundane granite depths 

         profound--that it was an independent "spring."  Since then 

         this "spring" has received a black eye from the physicians.  

         But the worst blow comes from Mr. V. Beaudry himself.  In 

         plain English he "lets the cat out of the bag."  In Mr. 

         Beaudry's letter to the City Council, published in the Times 

         of January 27th, that gentleman, the owner of said water 

         works, says:

              "The city authorities some time ago placed the Alameda 

         sewer at such a depth as to seriously diminish the amount of 

         water flowing into my supply reservoir."

              How is that for a "spring?"  It is the first time I ever 

         heard of a "spring" being cut off by a sewer, no matter how 

         deep the latter might be.  Does not this show conclusively 

         the filthy, drainage character of the Beaudry water?  Mr. 

         Editor, even if it does hurt some rich men's pockets, the 

         truth should be known in regard to the kind of water we are 

         drinking.  Especially so, as we can procure good water.  It 

         may be admitted that human life is of little importance in 

         comparison with money, and that the sale of town lots merits 

         more attention than the public health, yet even in a 

         financial point of view it is a very narrow and unwise policy 

         which covers up the truth in regard to such a vital matter 

         simply to benefit a few rich and purse proud men to the 

         injury of the mass, and to the discredit of the fair fame of 

         our city as a healthful place of residence.  The simple truth 

         is, the water this city is getting is not fit for use.  There 

         is pure, good mountain water accessible, and it should be 

         brought into the city, even if water barons do suffer.

                                            OLD SETTLER.


    Private water barons were not the only ones at fault.  John Murray's 

complaint about the Nichols ditch on Ingraham street, one block north of 

Seventh, was aimed at the city's irrigation system, as was the complaint from 

"A Sufferer."

                        {Times, Sept. 16, 1887, p. 12}

                              An Offensive Ditch.

              Los Angeles, Sept. 14.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         The Nichols ditch, on Ingraham street, is a source of great 

         annoyance to the residents on that thoroughfare.  Property 

         there is greatly damaged and much sickness exists owing to 

         the slime, mud and decaying vegetation.  Prominent physicians 

         say that the cause of typhoid and malaria fevers in that 

         neighborhood can be directly traced to the filthy condition 

         of the ditch herein referred to.

              Residents on the south side of Ingraham street cannot 

         approach their residences except by going through an alley, 

         or a detour of several blocks.  They also suffer from the 

         overflow, and one party last winter had their premises 

         flooded, foundations of house undermined by the water from 

         the ditch.  This party will institute suit against the city 

         should the trouble occur again.  It was voted some time ago 

         to pipe the ditch in question on Orange street as soon as the 

         property-owners graded.  This street was at once graded and 

         paid for, but no sooner completed than Councilman Jones or 

         the City Engineer decide that the ditch must remain on 

         Ingraham street and be inclosed in iron-pressure pipe.  Bids 

         were advertised for, and at the last meeting of the Council 

         but one was received.  The chances for doing the work just at 

         present are said to be very poor.

              The question arises, of what use is this ditch and who 

         does it accommodate?  The City Water Company, also the 

         Citizens' Water Company, have their mains laid on Seventh, 

         Ventura and Orange streets, and certainly can supply all the 

         water needed.  If so, why should the city of Los Angeles or 

         the property owners on Ingraham street pay out $6000 for 

         piping a ditch which is unnecessary and also a great 


              The Mayor of Los Angeles, the Board of Health and the 

         Council have been appealed to quite a number of times to give 

         some relief, but the ditch still holds the fort, covered with 

         green slime and polluting the air for blocks around.  A 

         petition, stating all these facts, and signed by thirteen 

         property owners, was presented to the honorable Council at 

         their last meeting, and was referred without reading.

              The residents on Ingraham street will not tolerate the 

         nuisance many days longer.  They have arisen and will appeal 

         to the courts, and the city authorities will be compelled to 

         act in the matter or defend themselves in suits for damages 

         for overflow and for the sickness occurring through the 

         filthy condition of the ditch referred to.

                                            JOHN T. MURRAY

                         {Times, June 13, 1886, p. 2}

                                Please Explain.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Why is it that our 

         irrigating system is managed so loosely of late?  Why is it 

         that, when a person buys a head of water and pays the 

         required sum for it, he gets perhaps only one-half or two-

         thirds of that head?  Does it not look a little as if 

         everything was a trifle one-sided.  A person, in any kind of 

         transaction, is supposed to get somewhere near his money's 

         worth.  Why should it be any different in regard to water.  

         The plea that there is not enough water has no grounds, for 

         surely everyone can see that there is plenty of it going to 

         waste down the river.  The complaint arises from every side, 

         that the water supply in the ditches is not near as good as 

         last season, and that there are altogether too frequent short 

         runs of water.  Will some one interested please rise and 

         explain the "why and wherefore."              

                                         A SUFFERER.


    In criticizing the quality of water being distributed by local companies 

for domestic use, "Old Settler" had urged the city to look beyond the river for 

an uncontaminated supply.  He was joined by other writers, particularly "Homo" 

and "Farmer," whose argument was essentially the one the city used nearly two 

decades later to justify what Morrow Mayo called "the rape of Owens Valley."  

While the intent of "B. D.'s" letter was to protect the water rights of Los 

Angeles, in light of the litigation and violence that would mark the Owens 

Valley aqueduct project in the 20th century the position "B. D." took is more 

akin to that of Inyo County ranchers than to that of the city.

                          {Times, May 22, 1886, p. 2}

                               Riparian Rights.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Seeing an account of 

         the decision of the Supreme court of the State with regard to 

         riparian rights, adverse to litigation, I was led into a 

         train of reflection thereon.  With all respect for the 

         decision and for the majesty of law, I would repeat the 

         observation made by some commentator, that law is but common 

         sense refined, and having that, the common class of people 

         may be permitted to judge of right and wrong.  Any area of 

         country would certainly be entitled to the amount of rain 

         falling upon it in preference to all others, even though 

         there be a surplus.  Water naturally seeks a level of the 

         lowest place.  Rivers and their tributaries are the channels 

         or drains by which an outlet is afforded for this surplus 

         that comes from higher places.  Now, if this water can be 

         directed to useful purposes, seeking other channels, though 

         artificial, it is not surplus, and needs no drainage, natural 

         or artificial.  The right to its use, then, depends upon 

         where it is needed.  If it be to convert a desert into a 

         garden, that is surely better than that it should run into 

         the sea.  Rivers, etc., may be considered as natural drains 

         for waste or superfluous water, and if there is use for the 

         water, then they are no longer useless and are not 

         superfluous.  The question, then, should be, which of the two 

         systems would be more beneficial to the greatest number?   

         And it seems to me that the diverting or irrigation plan 

         would be conceded to be that one.  With due deference for the 

         opinion supporting the decision of the Supreme Court, I 

         submit the foregoing to the consideration of the sovereigns 

         of the land, the people.


                          {Times, Feb. 4, 1887, p. 4}

                                 Gov. Burnett.



              El Monte, Feb. 2.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  Over 

         30 years ago Gov. Peter Burnett, in answer to a young man 

         asking where he should settle, said:  "Go to Los Angeles 

         county.  It is the paradise of this coast; its climate is 

         unrivaled; its soil is inexhaustible; it will support 

         millions, and it is only a question of time when it will do 


              The fulfillment of the above is possible under a 

         suitable irrigation law, not otherwise.

              Our plains are said to contain about 2,000,000 acres.

              It may be asked, where is the water to come from with 

         which to irrigate?  The answer is simple:  We have a 

         magnificent mountain range for a watershed, designed to give 

         us water.  The average rainfall on the plain is 15 inches, in 

         the mountains 30 inches, and on the summit about 70 inches; 

         or averaging mountain and plain over 40 inches 

         annually--about the average rainfall of the New England 


              It is asserted that all the wars between Persia and 

         Russia originate with the interference of the latter with the 

         mountains and their streams which supply the plains of 

         Persia.  It is evident that the waters of the mountains are 

         considered to belong to the people of the plains, and should 

         it not be so in Los Angeles county?

              The mountain canyons and their streams and the sources 

         of our rivers are being rapidly taken up by individuals.  

         Unless the rapacity of parties, who are constantly taking up 

         these waters, be controlled by speedy legislation in the 

         interest of the public, the consequent evils are very likely 

         to become so exaggerated and aggravated as to be beyond 



                          {Times, Nov. 1, 1887, p.4}

                               A Water Question.

              The Times has received the following letter:

              Los Angeles, Oct. 29.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  Do 

         the press and people of Southern California understand the 

         full import of the move being made by the Spring Valley Water 

         Company.  This company furnishes the city of San Francisco 

         with water brought from the hills above San Mateo.  The 

         supply of water is not sufficient for the increased demands 

         of a large and growing city.  How to get more water is the 

         question the county is just trying to answer.

              We have in this State a law allowing the riparian owners 

         (those on the banks of the river) the use of the water that 

         flows in the rivers of California.

              The first settlers here who irrigated lands are 

         acknowledged to possess certain quasi-rights acquired by such 

         use; but new people on new lands away from the river banks 

         are not permitted to divert the water and appropriate it.  

         This seems a just law, and one that can be adhered to.

              It was announced some months ago in the San Francisco 

         papers that the Spring Valley Company had effected a loan of 

         some $13,000,000 to enlarge their water works by placing a 

         dam at the mouth of San Matio Canyon, and thereby making a 

         reservoir of eight miles in length, storing the water, which 

         would be drawn off at will.  This subject has not been 

         mentioned of late, although water can be stored to good 

         advantage in canyons, and in the near future such will be 

         done in many parts of the state by a new system soon to be 

         introduced in this county.  The Spring Valley Company now 

         appears on the scene in a new role.  They are in Alameda 

         county taking possession of the largest stream of that county 

         at Niles, some thirty miles south of Oakland.  This stream 

         they propose to carry to San Francisco, conducting the water 

         through iron pipes of large dimensions across the bay.  The 

         papers of Oakland and the farmers mildly protest.  The 

         settlers are poor, most of them; at least they are not able 

         to successfully carry on litigation with one of wealthiest 

         corporations of California, who are able, if need be, to 

         purchase courts and Legislature.  Can it not be readily seen 

         the confusion ensuing in Los Angeles county if the water laws 

         are tampered with?  It is a matter for grave consideration, 

         and of sufficient importance to call a mass-meeting of 

         citizens to protest against the establishment of this 

         precedent, and if need be help with money to prevent such 

         calamity to the State.  The law should be maintained at any 

         cost.  If this diversion of water can be accomplished it 

         would be just and sufficient cause for a division of the 

         State, so that Southern California may establish and maintain 

         her own laws suited to the requirements of this section.  If 

         Northern California can afford to set aside the law, Southern 

         California cannot afford to have the Spring Valley Company or 

         any other corporation interfere with the laws that regulate 

         water.  Here at least water is king, and his loyal subjects 

         are legion; let them look to their laurels before it is too 


              Endless litigation will follow open violation of water 

         laws.  The water question, under best interpretation of the 

         law, is a disturbed one; but let us see that there be no 

         needless trouble brought about by the power of money in the 

         hands of an incorporation.                       

                                              B. D.

                            E) LET THE BUYER BEWARE

    While most letters concerning water published by the Times dealt with its 

effect on the city of Los Angeles, other residents in the county were equally 

dependent upon an adequate water supply, primarily for agricultural purposes.  

"An Old Settler" penned a warning to potential buyers of agricultural land and 

at the same time passed judgment on the ethics of boom decade real estate 


                         {Times, Nov. 13, 1887, p. 7}

                         Lying in Business Won't Pay.

              Los Angeles, Nov. 11.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         There are thousands of the best people from the Atlantic and 

         Western States now arriving on the coast with the intention 

         of establishing homes here.  They bring, in the aggregate, a 

         large amount of capital, ready for investment.  They know but 

         little of the climatic conditions of this country, as they 

         effect horticulture and agriculture.  They cannot tell the 

         worst alkali lands from those which will produce fine crops.  

         They have not the faintest conception of the quantity of 

         water necessary in this country to produce profitable crops 

         of fruit or alfalfa.  An inch of water is an unknown quantity 

         to them.  The average real-estate dealer knows very well now 

         to take advantage of these people on the water question.  If 

         the property to be sold has almost no water on it, the seller 

         tells the newcomer that for every acre bought he has a share 

         of the water.  This makes him feel good.  He is on an equal 

         footing with every other purchaser.  He is a stockholder.  He 

         pays a large sum for the land with water.  But he don't get 

         the water, and without the water in such quantities as will 

         produce crops, his land is but little more than a desert.  

         The usual amount of water sold with land in this county 

         ranges from one inch to five acres, to one inch to ten acres.  

         There are some large tracts of land in Southern California, 

         now being put on the market, which do not have today more 

         than one inch of water to every fifty acres of land.  These 

         lands are being sold to unsuspecting new comers under the 

         belief that the indefinite amount of water belonging to each 

         acre is, or will be ample for farming purposes.  These 

         innocent victims will soon find out that they have been 


              Moral--Let every purchaser of fruit or agricultural land 

         require a title to a definite quantity of water to each acre, 

         and never accept less than one inch to every ten acres.  

         Water by the inch is valuable, but an indefinite amount of 

         water is worth nothing.

                                         An Old Settler.