|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride
Water, Water Everywhere …
For most living in Boulder City today, the drought and water restrictions we face seem unprecedented. But this is not the first time in our history we’ve faced serious water shortages: there was a day once when Boulder City actually ran out of water.
Boulder City’s original water system, built by the government in 1931, provided plenty of water throughout dam construction days and afterward when the population dwindled. Only a small portion of Boulder City was landscaped thenmost homes in the Six Companies part of town [the Avenues] either had desert landscaping or none at all
By 1941 the system was in trouble. The 10-year-old pumps frequently broke down, and old pipes burst. The population of the city rose as more federal agencies moved to town and demand for water system increased. There were several days in the summer of 1942 when the Bureau of Reclamation considered shutting off the system to force conservation. The government sent a sound truck up and down the streets warning residents to turn water off to allow the water storage tank to fill. There wasn’t enough left even to fight a fire should one break out. In 1943, Boulder City’s water use spiked due to two things: Victory Gardens and swamp coolers. Homes in those days did not have air conditioning and instead used evaporative coolers which were notorious water wasters. And Victory Gardens the government urged Americans to plant also sucked up a tremendous amount of water.
In early 1948, the government provided money to build a new 2 million gallon tank and pipe system on Cross Hill east of town, but it was still under construction when the height of the water crisis hit that summer. On Tuesday, July 20, 1948 the city’s water tank ran dry. Again the sound truck drove up and down the streets ordering citizens to stop outside watering and curtail inside use. It took a couple of days for the tank to refill while the new tank didn’t start delivering water until later that year. With double the former supply of water for its lawns and gardens, Boulder City’s landscaping flourished throughout the 1950sand Boulder became known as Nevada’s Garden City. This was when Boulder City was its most attractive and the canopy of trees planted in 1932 had spread upward to shade the town.
Boulder City has had to upgrade and augment its water supply system several times since 1948. But whether the crisis of 2004 will evolve into anything as dangerous as it was in 1948 is too soon to tell.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum