Valley Water Co. celebrates 100 years

Valley Water Company, which played a critical role in the development of La Cañada Flintridge by being the first to successfully bore a local well, is celebrating its 100th birthday in late September.

The company, which currently provides 3,580 service connections for a large swath of homes and businesses in the eastern and central portions of the city, will mark the milestone with an open house party on Sept. 30 at its headquarters on Hampton Road, said general manager Bob Fan.

Established in September 1910 by W. T. Somes and F.D. Lanterman (uncle to Frank D. Lanterman, who decades later represented the area in the state Assembly), Valley Water is one of the oldest and most storied water companies in the Crescenta-Cañada and San Gabriel valleys. It was the company's successes — establishing reliable ground water sources and helping to establish the Foothill Municipal District — that fostered population growth and economic progress.

"Without water, we wouldn't be where we are today," said Don Hibner, president of the Valley Water board of directors.

By the turn of the 19th century, the Crescenta-Cañada and San Gabriel valleys were home to several established and productive ranches. Farming and other types of development, however, were hampered by the limited water supply, according to a written history authored by Assemblyman Frank Lanterman and preserved by the Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation.

Early residents depended on water that collected in Pickens and Hall canyons, and then was transported by gravity flow through redwood flumes on trestles to the ranches.

By 1911, there had been more than 50 unsuccessful attempts to bore a local well. In June of that year, however, Valley Water successfully established the "Lanterman Well," the first reliable source of well water anywhere in the valleys. It spurred instant growth, with property values doubling almost overnight.

"Because of that, people started to move to the area," Fan said. "[There was] a land boom and other sources of water were developed."

Over the course of a few decades, Valley Water drilled about a half dozen addition wells. It also acquired several reservoirs and built several pumping stations.

But by the late 1940s, the post World War II boom had again driven up the local demand for water. In response, Valley Water, together with several other agencies, helped establish the Foothill Municipal Water District. The goal was to purchase water from the Metropolitan Water District, an imported water supplier, thus securing access to Colorado River water.

Existing state law excluded the foothill communities from Metropolitan Water District, but Frank D. Lanterman made his successful first run for state Assembly and spearheaded legislation to change the law.

Today, Valley Water imports about 75% of its water, said Fan, while rest comes from local sources. Many of the concerns about the volume of available water are the same as they were 100 years ago, Fan said, but the company has had success with its recent conservation efforts.

"Our customers have responded very well," Fan said. "We have seen a decrease in consumption."

The company is ready to celebrate 100 memorable years, Hibner said, and looks forward to 100 more.

"It is the most efficiently and seamlessly run company I have ever been involved with," Hibner said. "There is flexible service, it is clean and it is efficient and [the water] is at the lowest price that we can make it."

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