Los Angeles Aqueduct: An Artificial Oasis

Students: Cesia Lopez-Angel (MS.Arch)

and Eric Ladouceur (B.Arch)

Authored: Cesia Lopez-Angel (MS.Arch)

Instructor: Peter Arnold

Woodbury University

Arid Lands Institute 

“Going nine miles a minute that was a lot of uninhabited distance in a crowded century, a lot of emptiness amid a civilization whose success was achieved on the pretension that natural obstacles do not exist”

–Cadillac Desert

Map Study: Cesia Lopez-Angel
Sectional Study: Eric Ladouceur


Through GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysis, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was traced from its source to its terminus in an attempt of uncovering the multiplicity of systems both natural and manmade that makes up one of Los Angeles most powerful resources of drinking water. This investigation aimed to focus on the ecological impact of an impervious system whose construction was solely intended to channel millions of acre feet of water a year through a distance of 233 miles in a less than ideal terrain. This terrain is made up of steep hills and long spanning desert grounds in which relatively small amount of natural fresh water exists.

Photograph: Cesia Lopez-Angel

By providing markers of recognition and familiarity, a connection can be established between the source of water and its intended user. The opportunities for making the flow of water more evident exist within the actual system that plays a crucial role in bringing water to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Aqueduct is comprised of the both Mono Lake and the Owens River and is channeled through  what is known as the first and second aqueduct. The hydrologic system consists of saturated zones affected by evaporation and precipitation, surface water in the forms of reservoirs, canals, watersheds, and tributary streams, and saturated ground water. By diverting large quantities of water from natural systems feeding the aqueduct, Los Angeles has been responsible for depleting the Owens Lake and draining the Mono Lake basin.  A visual registry between water availability and water usage can be as dichotomous as the urban fabric to its surrounding ecology which can result in inappropriate interventions.  Understanding the natural and manmade elements that make Los Angeles Aqueduct efficient, and those that make it unsuccessful, provides the opportunity for mining and showcasing both the physical and ecological impacts for outsourcing water.


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