History · Jean R · Non-Fiction

Water to the Angels | by Les Standiford

Water to the Angels

Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles by Les Standiford
(Ecco, 2015, 336 pages)

When I first heard the title, Water to the Angels, I thought it might be a book about the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. Water to the Angels by Les Standiford is actually a historical account of William Mulholland and the building of the Los Angeles aqueduct in the early 1900’s. Although he had no formal training, William Mulholland was the chief engineer for the aqueduct project. Mulholland planned and oversaw the building of the aqueduct which stretches from the Sierra Nevada Mountains over 223 miles of various terrains to reach the city of Los Angeles. Some consider Mulholland to be the reason that Los Angeles was able to grow into a large metropolis.

The building of the aqueduct was not without controversy. When Mulholland’s aqueduct was built, water was channeled from areas that would otherwise have plenty of water. The residents of Owens Valley along the aqueduct route were farmers and cattle ranchers. They needed the water for their livelihood. There were also accusations of corruption and bribery. However, Mulholland was able to bring in his aqueduct project on time and under budget.

The author, Les Standiford, says that he got some of his inspiration to write the book from the movie, Chinatown. Chinatown is fictional and offers a distorted view of Mulholland. Standiford was attracted to the use of water as a central theme. This book did keep my attention. If you like California history or engineering, you might want to give Water to the Angels a try.

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