Yorba Linda History

Historic Documents

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close this bookYorba Linda - Its History
View the documentDedication
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentPreface
View the documentChapter 1 - The Indians
View the documentChapter 2 - The Hacienda Era
View the documentChapter 3 - Carlton
View the documentChapter 4 - The Pioneers
View the documentChapter 5 - The Business District "Down Town”
View the documentChapter 6 - Recreation and Celebrations
View the documentChapter 7 - Water
View the documentChapter 8 - The School Story
View the documentChapter 9 - The Library
View the documentChapter 10 - The Churches
View the documentChapter 11 - Organizations
View the documentChapter 12 - Incorporation
View the documentChapter 13 - Richard M. Nixon
View the documentChapter 14 - Famous Citizens
View the documentChapter 15 - A Forward Look
View the documentChapter 16 - Yorba Linda - What Now?

Chapter 7 - Water

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Water has been one of the most important factors with which the people of Yorba Linda have had to cope. It was the life blood of the fruit industry and there could have been no progress without it. The men who organized and managed the water company for our pioneers and later residents have been men of high caliber and resourcefulness. We owe them a tribute of thanks for their work. Their story is an interesting one. I shall give only a brief account here.

Our forerunners early ran into difficulties over this commodity but managed with their usual courage and ingenuity. The Janss people had experienced some trouble when they discovered that the water promised to the settlers was costing more than they had anticipated. The original understanding had been that the ranchers would receive one share of water stock with each acre purchased. They were to pay by assessment for the water which they used. They began getting bills for water bonds, voted by Janss without vote of the settlers and this was an unwelcome shock to them. A meeting was held in the school house to discuss the situation. It was decided to not pay for the bonds. The settlers contacted an attorney to help them negotiate with the Janss Company. He told them that they must pay for the bonds. Dismayed, they continued to investigate and discovered they had been dealing with a Janss Company attorney. So, assuming the role of Diogenes they set about looking for an "honest man." [62]

In the meantime the people of San Francisco, weaned with graft in high places had been on the same search and had found a satisfactory attorney in the person of Francis J. Heney, an Arizona citizen. The pioneers were successful in obtaining the services of this man. The ranchers were represented by Mr. Heney in Superior Court in Santa Ana. Judge Thomas, a fine man and held in high regard, opened the trial with prayer, which was acknowledged as a good omen by the Yorba Lindans.

After several days at court, the Janss people, at the noon recess, came to the Yorba Lindans and offered a compromise. They would cancel all demands on the bond indebtedness placed by themselves on their water company and would relinquish their directorship, giving management to the settlers if the new management would assume all expenses of litigation which amounted to $32,000. The Yorba Lindans agreed to the proposition and so took over the water company.

A board of directors was chosen and the problems of water were handled as they presented themselves by this able and conscientious group of men. They had incurred considerable legal expense and found they must replace many of the pipe lines because of thin pipe having been installed initially. So they authorized a $150,000 bond issue. The stock holders approved the bonds by a vote of 2,095 ½ votes "yes" to 47 “no." Mr. George Kellogg, who served on the board of directors in the early years and has given us much of the information about the court battle, states that in 1931 the bonds had all been paid and that the Yorba Linda Water Company was the only water company in the State at that time to be debt free.

Mr. Ralph Shook Sr. who began a nineteen year term of service on the water board in the mid 1930's, compiled a history of the water company which was published in the Yorba Linda Star in 1959. We have this complete in our Scrap Book History, Vol. I, and have used it for reference for a part of this chapter.

From 1912 to 1959 there was a total assessment on each share of $1040. This amount, with the domestic charges, paid the total costs of pumping, distribution, taxes, renewals and replacements [63] for all water for forty-seven years. This speaks highly of the ability and honesty of the directors through the years, as well as the personnel who did the field work.

Andrew (Andy) Page was the first superintendent. Eldo West was appointed to this job in 1914 and served until 1921, when J. E. Lewis began a thirty year term ending with his death in 1951. Maurice Ford served from 1951 to 1956 and resigned to take the superintendency of the Escondido Water Co. Leonard Dueker followed in this position until his resignation in 1965, when Ralph Shook Jr. was chosen and still serves.

Warrick Murray was secretary of the company for twenty years, followed by Valdo Smith in 1942, who continued in that position until his retirement in 1965, when Jean Mathews was appointed and is the present secretary. J. M. Quigley, father of Merlin was the first zanjero of the company. The position of zanjero has always been one of importance to company and users alike. Ollie Burdig, Fred Clodt, and Roy Pritchard put in many years on maintenance work. Dave Crist, Rex Hastings, C. W. Morris, C. H. Eichler and others served ably on the water board for many years.

The Water Company has been fortunate in realizing revenue from several oil leases and had three producing wells. Their flow has diminished over the years, however.

The directors have experimented with various types of pipe during the life of the company and have found light steel to be poor. Redwood, which was at one time touted as the perfect product, soon gave out. Next they tried heavier steel-wrapped pipes and later, steel with spun tar insulation, but found cast iron, cement lined pipes the real solution to their problem.

So long as citrus and avocado industry was in its heyday in Yorba Linda the service of water was a predictable situation and the problems had become solved through the years so that the men of the Water Board might have been able to take their ease and rest on their laurels. But change was taking place. The orchard growers were finding that the land was much more valuable as home sites than it was for growing fruit. Yorba Linda [64] land was very desirable for fine homes and tract development grew rapidly throughout the entire area.

Residential use on a large scale made necessary some drastic changes. The Water people found they had a definite modernization project on their hands. After months of study and consultation they found it possible to form a county water district. Adjacent territory, upon petition, was included, bringing the total land involved to 4,849 acres and so the Yorba Linda County Water District was formed on December 2, 1958.

The company is continually expanding its services and operating in the same set of buildings where it has been for many years. Its main office is the old building built as the first school house of the town by volunteer labor in 1911. Its drafting rooms are in the building that housed the Yorba Linda District Library for many years and was traded together with some land to the south of the building to the Water Company for five lots on Lemon Drive where the Library now stands.

The source of water for many years was from the water table underlying the Santa Ana River bed. Wells were sunk to the water level and water was pumped to the reservoirs. As more and more water was used the water table lowered and the supply was greatly diminished. The source of water now is from the Colorado River, led through the Santa Ana River bed and sunk to the underground table where it is pumped at the two pumping plants into the reservoirs on Highland and Buena Vista from which source it is fed into the mains. Some water is also obtained from the huge Metropolitan Water District situated on the hills to the north of Yorba Linda.


On the hills above Yorba Linda on the north stands the immense Diemer Filtration Plant, a unit of the huge Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Coming into Yorba Linda after dark, one's eyes are lifted to what appears to be a city in the sky. The many lights of the huge water project give this beautiful illusion. [65]

Work on this plant began in the late 50's and has continued unabated since. The first unit of the plant was built at a cost of $17,000,000 and started operating in 1963 with an output of 200,000,000 gallons of filtered water a day. The structure is now being doubled and will soon yield a capacity of 400,000,000 gallons daily.

The water for this gigantic project is brought from Parker Dam on the Colorado River. It makes a 242 mile journey overland by aqueduct and huge pipe line to reach its goal on the hills above Valley View and Citrus Avenues. Early in the 1970's water will be coming to the plant from northern California waterways.

The water is passed into 6,000,000 gallon settling basins where it is mixed with certain chemicals and allowed to settle. It is then moved to filter beds where it passes through 20 inches of fine sand and 18 inches of graded gravel. A process of using anthracite coal is being used to some extent which is one of the ways of filtering.

The filtered water then passes to an underground storage reservoir from which it is released into the system of water mains to part of the city of Los Angeles and portions of Los Angeles County and most of Orange County. Yorba Linda's northern area is served by this water system.

Work was progressing rapidly on another exciting project of this same system. Off the coast and north of Huntington Beach was being built Bolsa Island at an approximated cost of $440,000,000. Here was to be constructed a huge, nuclear-powered desalting plant. Four large organizations were cooperating in this great venture. They were the Metropolitan Water District, Department of Water and Power of the City of Los Angeles, the California Edison Company and the San Diego Gas and Electric Company. Nuclear power was to be used for several reasons. First, it would be the cheapest power for a huge project such as this. It would also be the cleanest and would not add to air pollution. Finally it would not put a huge drain on the natural fossil fuels left to us. [66]

It was hoped that 1973 would see the first output of this undertaking with a production of 50,000,000 gallons of desalted water daily. The expectation was 150,000,000 gallons daily by 1977.

The desalinated water would have been piped to the filtration plant above Yorba Linda and processed and blended with the river waters before being released into the system's water mains serving parts of Southern California.

The project was forced to be abandoned late in 1968 because new estimates showed the cost to be almost double that planned. Some hold hopes that the plan might still be realized at some time in the future.

In spite of the forced abandonment of the atomic-powered plant we can still feel that great strides have been made in the production of water for our area, and that it is a fascinating story.

It is an example in miniature of the tremendous growth in scientific, mechanical and economic change in our America in a span of less than six decades. No more dramatic example could be found anywhere than this one in our own Yorba Linda. [67]

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