Member Spotlight – March 2018

  • by Will Holbert
  • Mar 16, 2018
  • Newsletters

The Coachella Valley Water District: Making Every Drop Count Since 1918 

Coachella Valley Water District board members unveil the anniversary logo during a regular board meeting on Jan. 9, 2018, on the 100th anniversary of the vote that created CVWD. Pictured are Cástulo R. Estrada, CVWD vice president, (left) and John Powell, Jr., CVWD president.

The Coachella Valley features a $5 billion tourism economy with 18,000 hotel rooms, 124 golf courses and internationally-famous sports and entertainment events. At the same time, farmlands of the Eastern Coachella Valley fuel a $1 billion agribusiness with some of the highest per acre crop yields in the world, with winter vegetables, bell peppers, table grapes, dates and lemons among the valley’s top crops.

None of this would be possible without the work of the Coachella Valley Water District, which has spent the past century working to maintain the integrity of the local groundwater basin, while importing enough water to meet the needs of residents and businesses throughout the district.

The district’s formation stems from the early 1900s. During that time, Coachella Valley residents raised concerns about the rapid growth of the area’s agricultural industry and its potential impact on the valley’s water supply, which depended on artesian wells supplied by the valley’s vast aquifer.

Residents were also alarmed by the efforts of various water companies and entrepreneurs to capture and divert water from the Whitewater River, at the west end of the valley, for use by farmers in Banning and the Imperial Valley. In 1910, that alarm prompted protests over efforts to divert Whitewater stream flows to Banning.

At the same time, businessmen from Los Angeles and San Diego targeted the Whitewater River with plans to build a canal that would enable the river to be used as a water supply for Imperial Valley farmers. Valley residents realized they needed to form their own independent water agency. This would not only to protect their local surface water resources, but give them their own government agency, authorized to import supplemental water to support the growth of the Coachella Valley’s own agricultural industry.

The pioneering farmers who came to the Coachella Valley in the early 1900s sustained their ranches with artesian wells. This 1912 photo shows Ben and Judy Laflin (third and fourth from the left) who founded the Oasis Date Gardens in Thermal.

Coachella Valley residents petitioned the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5, 1917, to facilitate the formation of the Coachella Valley County Water District. An election was held on Jan. 9, 1918, in which 373 valley citizens cast their ballots – voting 324 to 49 in favor of forming the Coachella Valley County Water District, later renamed the Coachella Valley Water District, or CVWD.

CVWD’s first actions were to file for rights to all unclaimed Whitewater River water and to acquire land near Windy Point West of Palm Springs to be used as a groundwater replenishment area. That dedication to groundwater has continued and remains a hallmark of the district today.

CVWD also was instrumental in the building of the All-American Canal and in negotiating the historic Quantification Settlement Agreement, which governs rights to a portion of Colorado River water. Additionally, CVWD is a leader in the use of recycled water for irrigation and in promoting conservation through rebates and education.

When the Coachella branch of the All-American Canal was first constructed, there was no funding to build a reservoir at the end of the canal to hold water for emergencies. Voters later approved construction of a 1,500-scre foot terminal reservoir in La Quinta in 1969. CVWD named the reservoir Lake Cahuilla after the ancient body of freshwater that was created by Colorado River floods in the Salton Sink.

Today CVWD serves the Coachella Valley with seven fields of service: agricultural irrigation and drainage; stormwater protection and flood control; domestic water; groundwater replenishment and imported water; water conservation, wastewater treatment; and recycled and nonpotable water.

On Jan. 9, 2018 100 years from when the vote was taken that led to the formation of the district, the CVWD board unveiled a special anniversary logo that will be used throughout the year.

A historical book, The story of the Coachella Valley Water District: Making every drop count since 1918, was created to commemorate this anniversary. It focuses on the foundation of CVWD and how the district has evolved to support the growth of the valley through steadfast water service, water management and reliable water sources. Additional features include hundreds of photographs and stories from those who played an important role in the district’s development
and accomplishments. A copy of the book can be downloaded for free at

In honor of CVWD’s 100th birthday, a public celebration is planned for November.

Additional information about the history of the district is also available at

Print PDF Version

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