The Coachella Valley Water District Created the Desert as We Know It

The Coachella Valley Water District made modern life in Greater Palm Springs possible.

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CVWD’s federal Colorado River water order was about 9% of the state’s entire allocation.

Local residents voted in favor of forming Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), 324 to 49 on January 9, 1918 to protect the valley’s water resources.

During this time, approximately 8,000 acres in the valley were being farmed, producing crop values in excess of $1 million. Farmers irrigated from wells which pulled water from the aquifer, causing the groundwater level to drop. Recognizing the need for an imported water supply, water district leaders embarked on an extensive 30-year quest to bring Colorado River water to the valley.


Coachella Valley pioneer Ben Laflin and his family pose near an artesian well on their Thermal ranch in 1912.

Workers pour concrete to line the Coachella branch of the All American Canal.

By the 1930s, efforts to build a canal intensified. In 1934, CVWD executed a contract with the United States Bureau of Reclamation to participate in the Boulder Canyon Project, which included the construction of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam), the All-American Canal, and the Coachella Branch of the All-American.

Progress was uncertain, with canal construction halted during World War II, but Colorado River water began flowing onto farmland via the Coachella Canal in 1949. Today, more than 65,000 acres of farmland produce crop values in excess of $575 million.

“Without the canal, the Coachella Valley wouldn’t be what it is today,” said CVWD Board President John Powell Jr. “Dropping groundwater levels would have hurt agriculture and would have prevented the area from becoming a world-class tourist and resort destination.”


The Coachella Canal delivers imported water to local farms through an underground delivery system.

Water-efficient drip irrigation lines water grapevines on a local farm.

CVWD has implemented these major actions to conserve Colorado River Water:

  • Investment in its 500-mile irrigation delivery system to minimize system losses through the use of pipes and metering 100% of properties served.
  • Lining of a 49-mile section of the Coachella Canal yielded 132,000 acre feet per year in savings.
  • Lining of remaining 35-mile section of Coachella Canal.

Conservation by customers is necessary to continue successful water management. About 60% of agricultural customers use drip irrigation, which allows crops to be irrigated efficiently. CVWD encourages all customers to use water efficiently by checking for leaks and applying for rebates.

To learn more about water conservation, and for tips and rebate information, visit