The Marin Municipal Water District
In 1912, the Marin Municipal Water District received its charter as the first municipal water district in California. Until then, water in central and southern Marin was provided by a number of small, unrelated companies, many of which were subsidiaries of real estate developers.
The movement toward a publicly owned and operated municipal water district started in 1911, when a group of civic-minded Marin County citizens asked Assemblyman George Harlan of Sausalito to propose legislation allowing for the creation of a water district. Harlan and the others were motivated by extraordinarily high water rates, inadequate, and often irregular service and a desire to foster development within the county.
Since its inception, MMWD has acquired and incorporated into its system 26 small private water companies. Today, MMWD is a public agency that provides high-quality drinking water to 186,000 people in a 147-square-mile area of south and central Marin County.
- From 1863 to 1865, Mount Tamalpais was the object of another California “Gold Rush”. Contemporary sources describe it as a “grand fizzle.”
- Legend has it that a “treasure” lies buried somewhere on Mount Tamalpais. Bill Williams, after whom Bill Williams Creek is named, is said to have deserted the Confederate Army taking along a chest of stolen Confederate gold.
- Lake Lagunitas is the oldest reservoir on the watershed. Lagunitas Dam was built in 1872 by the Marin County Water Company. When completed, the dam was the third largest on the West Coast.
- In 1875 the owner of the Marin County Water Company, William T. Coleman, stocked Lake Lagunitas with 20,000 trout.
- Marin County’s first telephone line (1877) ran six miles from the office of the Marin County Water Company on C Street in San Rafael to the dam keeper’s house at Lake Lagunitas.
- The historic log cabin next to Phoenix Lake was built circa 1894 for the Hyppolite Ranch by James and Walter Landsborough, nephews of Mrs. Janet Porteous.
- In 1898, Victor Jesse Colwell robbed the Bolinas Stage at gunpoint as it passed through the Mount Tamalpais watershed. He was later arrested by a sheriff’s posse and sentenced to seven years at San Quentin.
- Built in 1918, Alpine Dam is the only concrete dam in the reservoir system. The other dams are made of earth fill and rock.
- The water supply line built in 1920 to serve Point San Quentin is called the “Sugar Line” because it was built and paid for by the California and Hawaiian Sugar Company. Water was transported to the C&H plant at Crockett via the Sugar Line and barges.
- Between 1929 and 1934, 24,000 trees were purchased and brought down from the Fort Bragg area to reforest the watershed. Most of the trees were Bishop and Coulter Pine.
- Bon Tempe is an “Americanization” of the family name Bautunpi. The three Bautunpi brothers ran a ranch and dairy that was later removed to make way for Bon Tempe and Alpine reservoirs. Bon Tempe Reservoir was constructed in 1948.
- April 25, 2012, marked the 100-year anniversary of MMWD. The district commemorated the centennial throughout 2012 including a pictorial history book, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, by MMWD Director Jack Gibson. The book documents the district’s role in the preservation of the watershed and the district’s work to ensure a reliable supply of high-quality water for Marin.The book, from Arcadia Publishing, is available in local bookstores, at MMWD or may be ordered online. Proceeds benefit a fund to protect the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.