Scant records suggest California's indigenous populations practice dry farming and water redirection. The Paiutes built temporary dams with boulders, brush and mud. Shallow ditches redirected water flow.
RELATED PLACES Mono Lake, Mexicali, Calexico, California River Aqueduct


1860 The Climatology Theory, Rain Follows the Plow, takes hold, convincing Americans that the activity of agriculture will increase rainfall levels in the arid West.

Supported by figures like Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, Samuel Aughey, and Charles Dana Wilbur who wrote:
"God speed the plow.... By this wonderful provision, which is only man's mastery over nature, the clouds are dispensing copious rains ... [the plow] is the instrument which separates civilization from savagery; and converts a desert into a farm or garden.... To be more concise, Rain follows the plow."  (citation)
1890 The War and Weather , By J Edward Powers,  is published. Powers demonstrates that the ongoing Indian Wars are changing the climate of the American West. The noise of violence and genocide is increasing moisture, encouraging further colonization.
1904 Charles Hatfield, Rainmaker, successfully conjures a storm. Water will remain magical in Californian's consciousness.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta, Los Angeles, San Diego
1848 Gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill, CA
1849 The Gold Rush Prospectors redirect water with ditches and flumes.
Levee construction begins at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The California Constitutional Convention directs the Surveyor General to study water management. RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1851 Brigham Young, sensing inevitable conflict with the American government, sends disciples cross the San Bernardinos. They begin to irrigate the arid basin now known as the Inland Empire.
1871 Luther and Eliza Tibbets bring two naval seedless oranges to Riverside, launching California's citrus industry.
1884 Valenicia Oranges Grown in San Bernardino go on display at World's Fair inspire thousands to move to Los Angeles, and the arid state of California.
1887 The Wright Act enables CA citizens to create local irrigation districts.


1862 Spring Valley Water Works Company establishes a monopoly on San Francisco Water. This will be the first of many corporations to advocate for the isolation of water from the landscape. Cement tubes, industrial waste and coffin-like walls eventually erase all memory of California's watershed connections.
RELATED PLACES Bay Area, Salinas River
1853 Hydraulic Mining begins. River channels become increasing clogged with debris, increasing flooding.
1869 First transcontinental Railroad reaches the west. California begins exporting crops, increasing the need for agricultural water.
1870 Rudimentary Groundwater extraction begins.
1905 Colorado River Diversion Canals fail, forming the Salton Sea.
1907 After 3 years of careful maneuvering, William Mulholland gains control of the Owens Valley's water.
RELATED PLACES Owens Lake, Los Angeles
1908 President Roosevelt approves San Francisco's request to hold the water rights for the Tuolomne River.
RELATED PLACES Bay Area, Salinas River
1912 The first water flows from the Owens Valley into the San Fernando Valley.
RELATED PLACES Owens Lake, Los Angeles
1913 Construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and pumping stations is complete. The Owens Valley is slowly drained of water.
RELATED PLACES Owens Lake, Los Angeles
1913 John Muir and environmentalists lose the battle against Hetch Hetchy dam.
1940 All-American Canal is completed, bringing Colorado River to Imperial and Coachella Valleys
1950 80,000 pumps increase groundwater extraction.
First Phase the State Water Project is completed (San Luis Reservoir, Castaic Lake, Lake Perris).
RELATED PLACES Bay Area, Salinas River, Los Angeles
1982 Peripheral Canal Legislation, meant to address California Delta Salt Water intrusion while redirecting water to Southern CA, is repealed.


1902 Congress Passes the Reclamation Act, so that irrigation projects can "reclaim" arid lands for human use. This was called "homemaking."  "Water conservation" is defined as not allowing a drop of water to run, unused by humans, to the ocean. Over the next fifty years, dam building will fuel the economies and imaginations of Americans. These sublime marvels of human engineering symbolized American mastery over nature and manifest dominian over the West, and the world.
1920 The "Marshall Plan" for the Central Valley fails.
1922 The Colorado River compact divides the waters of this wild river among seven states, enabling the widespread irrigation of the Southwest.
1928 Congress authorizes the Boulder Canyon (Hoover Dam) Project. This is the first time large appropriations flow to the Bureau of Reclamation from the General fund.
RELATED PLACES California River Aqueduct
1928 Mulholland's St Francis Dam collapses, killing over 400.
1929 The St Francis Dam disaster inspires a State Dam Safety program.
1933 Parker Dam construction for the LADWP Colorado River Aqueduct begins.
RELATED PLACES Imperial Valley
1936 Federal Flood Control Act is passed. The era of multipurpose dams begins.
1937 WPA takes over the Central Valley project, which currently provides 4 million acre-feet of water to the agricultural users in the Central Valley.
1938 Federal government begins construction on Shasta Lake and Dam.
1941 Parker Dam Construction is complete, despite Arizona's threats of military action against the state.
RELATED PLACES Mexicali, Calexico
1948 Construction on Folsom Dam begins.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1955 A record flood hits Northern and Central CA, spurring on the Feather River project at the Oroville site.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1961 Construction Starts on the State Water Project and Agribusiness dominates the San Joaquin Valley.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1963 Construction begins on the San Luis Reservoir and the California Aquaduct in the Delta.
RELATED PLACES Bay Area, Salinas River
1968 Oroville Dam and Lake Oroville dedicated by Ronald Regan.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1972 Edmonston Pumping Plant is dedicated. It lifts water nearly 2,000 feet up the Tehachapi Mountains.
1994 Reclamation announces that "The arid West has essentially been reclaimed. "
1994 Reclamation shifts emphasis from construction to operation of existing facilities.


John Muir and Environmentalists fight against the construction of Hetch Hetchy Dam.
1928 The CA Legislature mandates that water will not be wasted but put to "good and beneficial" uses.
1960 Voters approve the State Water Project, funding major transfers of water, and comprehensive state funding systems.
1961 The Davis-Dolwig Act is passed, directing the State Water Project to provide recreation, fish and wildlife enhancement.
Battles over the Peripheral Canal in Sacramento.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1967 First Salmon and Steelhead fish enter the Feather River Fish Hatchery.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act becomes law. Skinner Fish facility begins operation.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
1970 California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Art take effect.
1972 Federal Clean Water Act is passed.
1983 Public Trust doctrine invoked by court regarding Mono Lake.
1984 California Endangered Species Act is amended to protect both species and their critical habitat.
1987 6-year drought begins.
1988 Winter-run Chinook Salmon is listed as a threatened species.
1992 California Valley Project improvement act is passed by congress, requiring 800,000 acre feed be dedicated for environmental use.
1993 Delta Smelt declared a threatened species.
1994 CALFED corporation is founded by state and federal agencies with management and regulatory responsibility in the Bay-Delta Estuary.
1994 Winter-run Chinook Salmon listed as an endangered species.
1995 Widespread flooding in California.
1998 Despite preparation for El Nino, flooding and levee failures in the Pajaro River and Suisun Marsh.
RELATED PLACES Bay Area, Salinas River
1998 McPherrin Dam removed to restore chinook salmon in that Sacramento river tributary.
RELATED PLACES central valley
1999 CALFED releases a document proposing long-term fix for the Bay-Delta. Spring run Chinook Salmon and Coastal Chinook Salmon listed at threatened specials.
RELATED PLACES San Joaquin Delta
2000 CALFED's final report to focus on ecosystem restoration. Plans to commence with water conservation, water reclamation and groundwater recharge before new constructing new surface water projects.
2009 Oregon Senate Bill passed laying the groundwork for removal of four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River to begin 2020.


See Bibliography

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