Water History

Anaheim Public Utilities Water Services began in 1879 when the leaders of Anaheim took responsibility for operating the water production and distribution system. The original system included 1 shallow well, a 20,000-gallon redwood storage tank and 1 mile of wooden pipeline.

In the following century we provided the residents and businesses of Anaheim with the water they needed to succeed. As the city has grown we have responded by developing new water systems to meet the future needs of Anaheim. We are more than just a utility – we are an integral part of the community that we serve.

Water Timeline

  • 1857 - The City of Anaheim is founded by German wine makers. They build ditches and flumes to bring water from the Santa Ana River to irrigate their vineyards.
  • 1879 - Municipal water system operations begin September 15 with a shallow well, a 20,000-gallon redwood storage tank and a wire-wrapped, 4-inch wooden pipeline that runs for 5 blocks down Center Street.
  • 1890 - Metering of water customers begins with 16 water meters on a trial basis. By the end of the year, 35 meters are in service with daily use averaging 4,000 gallons. The system’s second well is added a year later.
  • 1894 - Early water engineer Adolph Schneider, who also played in the Anaheim City Band, is paid $60 a month to operate a new pump house and a 20,000-gallon storage tank on Cypress Street.
  • 1900 - One of Anaheim's first watering systems is called the water wagon. Typically, bids were coming in at $3-$6 per day to provide the city with water sprinkling for its streets.
  • 1908 - A new water and light plant is built on what is now 518 South Anaheim Boulevard. A new well and 173,000-gallon landmark concrete storage tank, reportedly the first of its kind in the United States, is constructed at a height of 97 feet.
  • 1920 - Increased agricultural pumping lowers basin water levels, causing shallow back-yard wells and even municipal wells to go dry, raising many concerns in the community about future water supplies.
  • 1928 - Anaheim is 1 of 11 founding members of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • 1935 - There are 3,300 water meters in service with citywide use averaging 2.5 million gallons of water a day.
  • 1938 - On March 3, the Santa Ana River breaks its banks, sending a wall of water through the community, resulting in 21 deaths. Water system crews work around the clock – rescuing families, capping pipes to houses that had been washed away and testing wells for contamination. Superintendent Vard Hannum leads a group that works through the night setting up a chlorination plant to protect against typhoid and dysentery. As a result, not 1 case of either disease is reported.
  • 1941 - Years of reliance on local wells for the community’s water come to an end with the first deliveries of supplemental Colorado River water to Anaheim.
  • 1968 - The 920-million gallon walnut canyon reservoir, the largest municipal reservoir in Orange County, is constructed to serve future growth in Anaheim’s hill and canyon area, and to provide emergency storage for the community. The project includes the August F. Lenain filtration plant, a 10-million gallon per day treatment facility.
  • 1984 - The first of a new series of high-production wells, drilled into a deep, high-quality aquifer, begins production.
  • 1987 - Exhibiting the typical support Anaheim Public Utilities has received from the community over the past century, Anaheim voters go the polls and pass a $14-million water revenue bond proposal with an overwhelming 79 percent of the vote.
  • 1990 - Anaheim is one of the few cities in the nation and only seven communities in California with a “Class 1” Water System and Fire Department rating from the Insurance Services Office. This achievement demonstrates the reliability and effectiveness of Anaheim’s water production and distribution system, and results in lower insurance premiums for Anaheim businesses.
  • 1995 - Major enhancements to the Lenain Water Filtration Plant incorporate full treatment capabilities, including the latest ozone disinfection technology and a state-certified laboratory to monitor water quality. Lenain remains the only city-owned filtration plant in Orange County.
  • 2000 - Water is served to customers at elevations ranging from less than 60 feet to over 1,200 feet above sea level.
  • 2003 - There are 61,413 meters serving nearly 340,000 residents and businesses with an average citywide use of 66.6 million gallons of water a day.
  • 2004 - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raises its rating on Anaheim water revenue bonds to AA+ due to conservative management, strong financial operations and a more-than-ample water supply. This rating is higher than nearby utilities.
  • 2006 - Anaheim’s well 54 is dedicated. The well, drilled to a depth of 1,530 feet below ground, is capable of producing around 3,500 gallons of water per minute. The facility that houses the well was designed to maintain the look of Anaheim’s Colony Historic District.
  • 2009 - The Walnut Canyon Reservoir is rededicated. This 920-million gallon capacity reservoir was originally placed in service in 1968. It is an important facility that stores untreated water for the Lenain Filtration Plant, which supplies potable water to most of Anaheim’s hill and canyon area. The reservoir rehabilitation project includes:
    • Drainage and road repairs
    • Public space enhancements
    • Replacement of the reservoir lining system
    • Water quality improvements
  • 2011 - The Nohl Canyon Tank begins commercial operation. With a storage capacity of 10 million gallons the partially buried drinking water storage tank provides a reliable source of clean drinking water. The tank is located several hundred feet higher in elevation than central Anaheim; a tank at this elevation helps to maintain adequate water pressure.
  • 2013 - Anaheim Public Utilities unveils the new Water Sustainability Campus. It is the first decentralized small-scale water recycling plant built in an urban environment in Southern California. Visitors can see demonstrations of the water recycling process in real time. The recycled water from the sustainability campus is used for irrigation around City Hall and for toilet flushing in the Anaheim West Tower.
  • 2014 - As part of Anaheim Public Utilities' continued efforts to rehabilitate and replace aging infrastructure, a new 4 million gallon tank and pumping station were built at the old Linda Vista site. The new facility, which replaces an almost 80-year-old tank, is responsible for delivering 1/3 of all water in Anaheim.
  • 2015 - A new high-capacity potable water well. This well is a part of the existing city well field at Anaheim Lake. The well has been designed to produce the highest quality potable water practical; the well will replace 2 existing shallow wells, which are both at the end of their useful life. Groundwater produced from this well will be stored in the new 4 million-gallon water tank at the Linda Vista Complex.
  • 2018 - A new recycled water pump system and storage tank were constructed at Pearson Park. The new system is part of the Downtown Anaheim Recycled Water Expansion project, which is designed to use recycled water for irrigation needs in the downtown Anaheim area. The park now irrigates almost seven acres of its property using recycled water, saving over 6 million gallons of potable water per year.
  • 2018 - The La Palma Water Complex received a rehabilitation after over 60 years of servicing Anaheim residents and businesses. The renovation included demolition of a 3 million-gallon reservoir, major improvements to its 4 million-gallon reservoir, as well as the demolition and reconstruction of its pump station. The new complex provides pumping capacity to meet current demands of 6,250 gallons per minute and will improve electric efficiency and water reliability for decades to come.