William Mulholland: Father of the Los Angeles Municipal Water Supply System


William "Bill" Mulholland (1855-1935) a self-taught civil engineer, who at the zenith of his career was the highest paid public official in California and the most respected man in Los Angeles in 1926. His storied career came to an abrupt end with the catastrophic failure of the St. Francis Dam in March 1928. A native of Belfast, Mulholland took to the seas at age 15, and in 1878 took a job as a ditch tender for the Los Angeles Water Company. He rose through the ranks to supervise the drilling of wells and constructing a system of distribution. When the water company was absorbed by the City in 1902, Mulholland hired as the general manager of a metered municipal water system. He possessed a willingness to work in the field under difficult conditions and was a natural leader and problem solver, who brought all of his projects in on time and on budget. For Bill Mulholland and the hundreds of civil engineers whom he influenced, their challenge was that of harnessing nature to build a better world, providing the water that was essential to the growth of southern California. His crowning achievement was the First Los Angeles Aqueduct, constructed in 1906-13. With a gravity fall of 3,260 feet and a length of 233 miles, no one imagined that its delivery capacity would be found insufficient less than a decade after its completion.

Meeting Name

17th World Environmental and Water Resources Congress (2017: May 21-25, Sacramento, CA)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Budget Control; Engineers; Environmental Technology; Municipal Engineering; Professional Aspects; Water Supply Systems; Catastrophic Failures; Delivery Capacity; General Manager; Municipal Water Supplies; Municipal Water Systems; Problem Solvers; Public Officials; Southern California; Water Resources

Geographic Coverage

Los Angeles County, California

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2017


Article Location